The English Government has introduced new legislation to tackle issues related to "low-welfare, high volume supply of puppies and kittens" by banning their commercial third-party sale in England.
‘Lucy’s Law’ means that anyone wanting to get a new puppy or kitten in England must now buy direct from a breeder, or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead. Licensed dog breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth. If a business sells puppies or kittens without a licence, then associated parties could receive an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months.
"Lucy's Law" is named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm where she was subjected to what was described as "terrible conditions". Puppy farms are located across the UK and have been linked with concerns regarding puppies and kittens that are "sick, traumatised, and unsocialised". The practice of "puppy farming" has also been associated with practices involving long-distance transportation, with the puppy or kitten suffering life-threatening medical, surgical, or behavioural problems which are passed on to unsuspecting new owners.
Lucy’s Law seeks to effectively remove the third-party dealer chain, resulting in all dog and cat breeders becoming accountable.
As well as Lucy’s Law, the current English Government has reportedly committed to supporting tougher sentences for animal cruelty, raising maximum prison sentences from six months to five years, and has pledged to bring in new laws on animal sentience and to end excessively long journeys for live animals.
It's a good move isn't it? But is it enough? Could the objective be achieved in a simpler and more effective way? International Animal Law ("IAL") says yes.
- Prohibiting practices and tougher sentences continue a 200 year old approach of trying to minimise the negative life experiences (e.g. pain, distress, suffering) of animals that is deemed "unnecessary" (section 4, Animal Welfare Act 2006 (England)).
- But if you look at the contemporary science of the Five Domains which have superseded the principles of the Five Freedoms, there is scientific evidence that substantiates what most people who deal with animals have long recognised - animals experience positive states (e.g. comfort, interest, pleasure) and not just pain, distress or suffering.
So IAL advocates that is time to extend the current duty of care beyond just preventing negative states, so that the duty of care also creates a responsibility on human caregivers regarding an animal's "positive states".
In a covid-19 traumatised world, and given the inseparable relationship between animals and people, extending the duty of care translates to important potential benefits to people as well.