We welcome Lucy's Law after our National colleagues have investigated 30,000 complaints about the puppy trade.

Over the last 10 years (2009-2019), we've taken 28,168 complaints relating to the illegal puppy trade. And over the last seven years we've rescued 2,172 dogs from the puppy trade. 

Today, we welcome the ban on third-party sales in England - known as Lucy's Law - meaning that all dogs must now be bought from the breeder, or from a reputable rescue organisation. Our chief executive, Chris Sherwood, said:

Over the last decade RSPCA staff have dealt with almost 30,000 complaints relating to the illegal puppy trade. Our rescuers have saved dogs from unimaginable cruelty and hideous conditions; our vets have tried desperately to save the lives of tiny puppies riddled with worms and plagued by health and behaviour problems; and our carers have nursed dogs back to health, teaching them to trust people again, and showing them love for the first time. 

We're incredibly pleased that the UK Government is today introducing a ban on third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England. We believe that this, along with tougher licensing regulations that were introduced in 2018 and better education of the public on how to buy puppies responsibly, will help to crackdown on this cruel trade. We hope these laws will be properly enforced so that all dogs who are used for breeding and selling will live happy, healthy lives where their welfare is prioritised above profits.

Puppy selling during coronavirus

We've been working to tackle the puppy trade for years with officers investigating complaints about puppy farms; rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs; and prosecuting criminal gangs - some of whom have been making tens of thousands of pounds a week selling puppies to unsuspecting members of the public. But we're concerned that many dogs and puppies will be stuck in puppy farms suffering in silence or could be abandoned by unscrupulous dealers when they fail to sell due to the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Puppy at a puppy farm

David Bowles, head of our public affairs team, said:

"We're thrilled that third-party sales have now been banned and hope this will make a real difference to this unscrupulous, underground trade. We now need this law to be effectively enforced by local authorities who have a duty to enforce this new law alongside existing tougher licensing regulations which were introduced in October 2018 to ensure that the very best welfare conditions for dogs used for breeding and selling.

"We do have concerns, however, that the Covid-19 lockdown will have a huge impact on animal welfare in this area - and that many puppies who have been bred to sell in time for the summer boom will be left languishing and suffering in silence in terrible conditions on puppy farms, or will be abandoned and left to fend for themselves."

Avoid supporting criminal activity

Sadly, many families who have bought a puppy believe that their dog may have come from a puppy farm or an unscrupulous breeder or dealer, having been imported from abroad.

Ian Briggs, chief inspector in our Special Operations Unit - a specialist team which investigates serious and large-scale organised animal crime, such as puppy farming - said:

While our teams work incredibly hard to investigate complaints of poor welfare and underground puppy farming and will do all we can to shut down these awful business, we're also relying on the public to ensure that they buy puppies in a responsible manner and do not inadvertently support criminal gangs who are using dogs to make a quick buck.

We'd always encourage any family thinking of getting a dog to adopt a pet for their local rescue centre. If buying a puppy then we'd urge everyone to use The Puppy Contract to help them buy responsibly and find a happy, healthy dog. Most importantly, if you're concerned about anything you see then walk away and contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the local council.

Top tips for buying a happy, healthy dog

Dog at an illegal puppy dealer

Please bear in mind that getting a puppy at this time - during the Covid-19 lockdown - is highly unlikely due to the restrictions on movement. It's also important to consider whether you could care for a dog once the lockdown is lifted. 

Here are some tips for buying a dog once these extraordinary measures are lifted: 

  • Always consider giving a rescue pet a new home instead of buying
  • Do lots of research and ensure you can commit to a dog before getting one
  • Ask the breeder lots of questions, visit the puppy multiple times and ask to see paperwork (licensing, health checks, vaccination records etc)
  • See the pup's mum and watch her interacting with the litter
  • Never pay cash and if anything concerns you then don't hand over any money or buy a puppy, walk away and contact us, local council or police.