Lucy’s Law – is is feasible?

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

All persons ought to endeavor to follow what is right, and not what is established – Aristotle

 Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution would be to think before putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard.  Frank Jackson often used to use the writer’s trick of ascribing comments and conversation to his fellow drinkers at his local pub and it mattered not that some of the ides were extreme for they were not going beyond the readership of his column and readers were happy to sit back and take their time to consider the whole argument which was eventually brought around to a common sense conclusion.  We in the world of dogs were cocooned in our own macrocosm ‘with very little to distress or vex us’. My goodness – those were the days.

The occasional news story around Crufts, serious though they seemed at the time, were just storms in teacups leaving little mark on the wider public after a few weeks. These days however, although storms usually remain of teacup proportions, the constant and often irritating sniping on social media provides fuel for whatever fire is being lit by responsible lobby groups and organisations, in their attempt to make an impact on the media and those responsible for taking long-term decisions. The fundamental problem appears to be that responses are no longer nuanced but are increasingly seen as black or white.  This may be because of the textual shorthand encouraged by the speed of emails, messaging services and Twitter, as respondents can no longer be bothered to write a proper reply.

It certainly sometimes seems that those receiving information via social media have not properly read the original message and I cannot remember how many times, in the interest of accuracy, I have had to correct quite serious misinterpretations of statements made when easily checkable facts have been ignored.  Such misunderstandings occur even in the real world of newspapers, and you may remember the furore raised by my article about the consistency of standards because many made the assumption that I was ‘against’ a particular feature of a breed when this was absolutely not the case or the point.  A further excellent example is to be found in an article on my weblog ( which attempts to define the difference between line breeding and inbreeding.  Because it is read regularly it comes up high on search engines but many questions which arise from people who have found the article, make it quite clear that they have not read it for the answers are almost always in the text.

The temptation to ‘keep it simple’ is not always the best option

What makes sorting through the detritus of various threads for those looking for genuine discussion or information so difficult, is the tendency for respondents to provide mostly oversimplified solutions.  I have long been of the opinion that success is more likely if you ‘keep it simple’ but there are some problems which are so complex and have so many implications that simplicity cannot provide the answer.  A very good example is the recent discussion about the sale of puppies.  I should first state quite clearly that I believe that a puppy’s first home is its best home and it is in the greatest interest of both the owner and the puppy to have been bought from a responsible and thoughtful breeder who has provided the best possible health, nutritional and social care and will provide excellent advice and after sales service.  There is no question in my mind that if this set of circumstances could be legislated for effectively much would be achieved.  I am sure that there are few who would disagree with the principle other than those who are profiting from the fact that government is not minded to consider Lucy’s Law which would ban the third party sales of puppies.

It seems so simple and the idea, originally developed by my friend Marc Abraham, has been taken up by many lobby groups, which include the Kennel Club, Battersea, many MPs and campaigners from Jemima Harrison to Peter Egan and other well-known personalities.  Understandably, the concept is having an immense emotional impact and a massive following on social media as well as being widely reported in the national press. This is not surprising for, to take a direct quote from Marc, and here’s clue to the considerations expressed in this article, ‘We are going to use the power of the mob’.

Despite this, I should also state clearly my admiration for Marc and his campaign team who have worked tirelessly at the highest levels of government to promote what is an excellent concept. However, I must report that despite the hype and apparent support of many parliamentarians, it is unlikely that such a law will reach the statute book in the foreseeable future for the government believes that the forthcoming secondary legislation to the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 due next year (2018) will significantly improve the current situation (please don’t ask me why I know because, unfortunately, the reasons are confidential, but I do assure you it is the case).

Which takes me back to my theme, for those prepared to put their head above the parapet and point out some of the many practical problems and unintended consequences of implementing the idea, however informed and professionally qualified they are, are pilloried, accused of supporting puppy farming and not caring for animals.  This can hardly be said of Dogs Trust, Blue Cross (or me for that matter) but sniping at the various reasonable and thoughtful comments which have tried to put some balance into the discussions, makes no sense and just adds to the hysteria.

Dogs Trust is on our side

The worry is that the sensible and thoughtful views of organisations such as Dogs Trust are swamped by the emotional rhetoric which is allowed to swirl about in social and national media.  You would not think it, but Dogs Trust has made it quite clear that it is in favour of banning third-party sales.  I quote an unequivocal statement direct from its website, ‘Dogs Trust wants to see an end to third-party sales’.  However, the policy statement goes on to explain in careful, unemotional tones, precisely why this might not be the best policy at the moment.  I need not go into detail here for you can find their statement and carefully explained rationale on their website

Suffice to say that one of their key reasons for their stance affects us in the world of dogs directly for they say, ‘We believe that introducing the ban at this time is not wise as it fails to deal with the root causes of the problem – a woefully low supply of puppies from ethical sources and any such ban will simply drive the trade further underground and make enforcement harder.  As long as the supply of puppies from responsible breeders’ falls short of meeting the growing demand in the UK, dishonest breeders will breed dogs to increase profits and evade the law once again making enforcement even more difficult.  We already know that this is happening now.

Just think about it.  Those who attack the views of Dogs Trust have almost certainly not read the text of their statement.  Had they done so they would surely realise that for once, one of the big charities is on the side of responsible dog breeders.  They have not taken the easy option of joining ‘the mob’: they are suggesting that the decisions regarding puppy sales should be based on evidence not on what appears to be an easy option.  This sounds sensible to me: what a shame it is that so many keyboard warriors do not take the time to think the implications through.
















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