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Bea: How did you get involved with the campaign for Lucy’s Law?
Marc: It was never something I planned. I met Lucy and her adopted mum, Lisa Garner in 2013 and we became great friends and the three of us were a very tight unit in the campaign to ban puppy farming.
Pup Aid was set up here in Brighton – a fun dog show ran by dog-loving volunteers with the aim of ending the cruel practice of puppy-farming in the UK by raising awareness, as well as educating the public about the right way to get a pet dog – either direct from breeder or from rescue.
Over the years we’ve involved some great celebrities to judge the Dog Show and who have raised the profile of the campaign - people like Mark Walliams, Patsy Palmer in Brighton, and then we moved to London to reach more people and other celebrities joined us like Ricky Gervais, Brian May, Liam Gallagher, Sarah Harding, and loads more!
Bea: How did that evolve into the drive for Lucy’s Law?
Marc: The work we were doing was making a difference but things weren’t changing quickly enough. I was encouraged by one of my local MPs Caroline Lucas who’d already supported Pup Aid and had judged one of our early dog shows here in Brighton. Caroline suggested we start a Government e-petition to get the issue debated in Parliament. I didn’t know anything about politics – the most exposure I’d had to politics was watching Spitting Image as a kid – parliament to me was Big Ben and a few other impressive-looking buildings. So I started dipping my toe into lobbying. I was so inexperienced; when I first went to meet the MPs at Westminster I had my mum and my gran with me, it was like I’d won a competition to go to the Houses of Parliament!
We got the 100 000 signatures in 6 months and took the petition to the Main chamber in 2014 with all 90+ MPs on board. The MPs voted for the ban on 3rd party sales of puppies and kittens. Unfortunately the government rejected the vote as a result of being lobbied by the pet industry who we believe considered the ban on puppies (or kittens) the slippery slope that would lead to smaller animals like rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs or fish also being banned. So at that point government listened to the industry that had strong vested interests rather than welfare groups. It was a big lesson for me. We continued to lobby and fight for the banning of third party sales of puppies and kittens but were still being defeated by some other surprising obstacles from within the pet welfare sector. It was a very difficult time for all of us grassroots campaigners.
Bea: So what changed?
Marc: Sadly in 2016 Lucy passed away and we decided to honour her memory by re-launching the campaign in her name in 2017. Lucy’s story embodied everything we were working to change; the campaign was paying tribute to all the victims of third party selling of puppies and kittens and suddenly the campaign went completely viral.
We had incredible backing from The Mirror whose team was helping to highlight Lucy’s story. We also did another e-petition which got to 100 000 in just 13 days that helped to show the huge sentiment and public support for the campaign. I was going into No. 10, along with teams of experts, talking to policy makers and advisors, producing all the necessary evidence, and we won them over. We forced a “call for evidence” which is a public consultation with a view to banning third parties selling puppies, which gained a 75% positive response. Michael Gove’s involvement was a game changer as he pushed DEFRA (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) to really listen to our evidence. In May 2019 they announced that new legislation to end puppy and kitten farming would be laid in Parliament.
Bea: So what does Lucy’s Law mean for our pets’ lives and people thinking of getting a pet?
Marc: It will be illegal for a puppy or kitten to be sold without its mum being present and away from where it was born. Every breeder now becomes accountable for commercial pet sales (this doesn’t effect rescues at all). It means that if you want a dog or cat as part of your family you can only go direct to the breeder (and see the puppy or kitten interacting with its mum in the place he or she was born) or you go to a rescue shelter instead – as it should be. It will ensure that puppies and kittens are born and reared in a safe environment, with their mother and littermates, and sold from the place they were born.
As soon as you buy a puppy or kitten away from where it was born (via a pet shop or from online from possibly puppy smuggling channels) it’s likely that they’re already damaged or sick before they even get to the seller; that’s why you can never license a third party seller to a level that benefits the welfare of the puppy, kitten, or its mum. With Lucy’s Law we’ll finally have transparency and accountability, which will mean that no one can get away with abusive, motherless, legal (licensed) selling.
We’ve now got a system of much-needed accountability which we never had before, now we have the legal framework that if you buy a pup and it gets sick because it hasn’t been in a healthy environment you can now go back to the seller / breeder and hold them accountable. With this new accountability if it doesn’t look or feel like the circumstances are right, police, local council, trading standards, or RSPCA can now investigate.
Bea: What’s your advice when someone is going to see a prospective new puppy?
Marc: The golden rule - always make sure you see the puppy interacting with their mum – you can see the mothers temperament, maybe its dad too, how they are with people and the rest of the littermates.
If the puppy isn’t with their mum it is best to walk away and report (very hard to do if the puppy looks sick); but any responsible breeder/seller will always encourage a buyer to have a think about it. An easy way to check if the seller has the puppy’s welfare in mind is asking them if the dog doesn’t work out will they take the dog back? Again a responsible seller will always say yes.
You can also Google the phone number to see if it’s associated with other multiple litters being sold. It’s also good to talk to the local vet or local rescue centres.
Bea: Is there an argument to say we should only ever get a puppy from rescue centres?
Marc: I would always recommend good, if possible local, rescue centres but I don’t have anything against responsible breeders. I think we need a balance, if it’s done properly and responsibly, breeding can improve the health of pedigree breeds. The Kennel club has registered Assured breeders ensuring that breeders take all of the required health tests. The grey area has been the designer crossbreeds like cockapoos, however now there is the Hybrid Breeders Association who can also recommend good, responsible dog breeders.
Bea: We have to say Congratulations on Lucy’s Law finally becoming legislation. What else has the process of campaigning over the past ten years given you?
Marc: One of the biggest things, which I also talk about in the book, is how you can campaign with nothing and actually change the world. I had no resources, no experience, and yet my amazing team and I have managed to make a huge difference to the animals and community that cares about them. I hope that this Lucy’s Law book and campaign can help other people who want to make a change in areas that they’re passionate about.
Bea: Marc, Thank you so much for your time and all your hard work! We are all really excited to read your new book, Lucy’s Law: The story of a little dog who changed the world. I think as a team who are passionate about animal welfare it’s been so enlightening and heartening to hear about your journey.
Marc is kindly offering Hiro + Wolf followers 20% off using special discount code 'LUCY' here: https://mirrorbooks.co.uk/products/lucys-law-the-story-of-a-little-dog-who-changed-the-world