In an effort to crack down on "puppy farms" and other breeding practices that can harm animals' health, pet stores in England will soon be banned from selling puppies and kittens, according to the BBC.
The government is currently consulting on plans, which concern cats and dogs under 6 months old. In addition, another ban preventing licensed sellers from peddling kittens and puppies under 8 weeks old will come into effect on October 1.
"There are concerns that commercial third-party sales lead to poorer welfare conditions for the animals compared to when people buy directly from the breeder," the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs wrote in an overview of the ban. The agency added that the risks include separating young animals from their mothers too soon, introducing them to unfamiliar environments, and forcing them to endure potentially long journeys to get from the breeder to the pet store.
One particular case drew attention to the issue of puppy farms, where dogs are held for years—often in poor conditions—for the purpose of breeding puppies for profit. A little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lucy spent five years on one of these farms, but by the time she was rescued in 2013, the damage had already been done. She suffered from epilepsy, had a curved spine from being held in a cramped cage, and was also blind in one eye.
Lucy spent three happy years with her owner, Lisa Garner, before dying in 2016. Her case inspired TV vet Marc Abraham to launch the Lucy's Law campaign and urge lawmakers to better protect animals when they're young—and most susceptible to harm.
It's estimated that between 40,000 and 80,000 puppies are sold by third-party vendors in Great Britain each year.
In the U.S., California passed a law last year prohibiting dog and cat breeders from selling to pet stores. Pet shops in the state are only permitted to sell rescue and shelter animals. Maryland became the second state to pass a similar law in April 2018, and a few other states are now considering similar measures.