Puppy power as government announces new plans to restrict dog sales to licensed breeders only

Fudge was gravely ill after just three days with his new family. ITV News Credit: ITV News

We are, as is often said, a nation of animal lovers, and public pressure on politicians to protect puppies has been a long running issue - one which perfectly proves the point.

Today, Environment Secretary Michael Gove tells ITV News that the government will go ahead and bring in a new law to restrict puppy sales to licensed breeders only, effectively putting third-party puppy dealers out of business.

Which means the new legislation will match the government's advice to only buy a puppy from a breeder, and always see the litter of pups with their mother before you choose a new pet.

The government has clearly been listening to a team of campaigners who've managed to get an astonishing 250,000 signatures on petitions calling for Lucy's Law.

Lucy was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm and died in 2016.

She has become the 'face' of the campaign which has got remarkable cross-party support.

This is one of those issues which has managed to unite Conservatives, Labour, SNP, DUP, Lib Dems and the Greens.

Lucy's Law, when it gets through parliament, will effectively close down puppy farms.

All too often the puppies sold in pet shops or by puppy dealers come from puppy farms either here or in Wales, Ireland and Eastern Europe.

Breeding bitches are often kept in appalling conditions, forced to have litter after litter to meet demand for fashionable breeds, like the French Bulldog or Pug. It's a notoriously cruel trade.

Annette Thompson was heartbroken at the loss of her puppy, Fudge. Credit: ITV News

Last week I met Annette Thompson, from Tilbury in Essex, who bought a ten week old chocolate Labrador from a puppy dealer.

Within three days, little Fudge was dying. He was infected by the highly contagious parvovirus - a disease which thrives in unhygienic conditions and often spreads in badly kept kennels.

Annette told me how devastated her whole family was and how much she wants the law to change.

Around 80,000 puppies like Fudge are sold on by dealers in the UK every year, a new law may well prevent the deaths of puppies bred purely for profit.

Only around a hundred third-party sellers have licences in England.

Speaking to ITV News, Michael Gove revealed plans to restrict puppy sales. Credit: ITV News

There are some concerns from the largest dog welfare organisation in the country, the Dog's Trust, which while it welcomes a ban on third-party sales of puppies, says: "The new regulations need to be robust, fit for purpose and enforced.

"As well as offering guidance to government on this, we hope to work with Local Authorities to assist with the training of those inspecting breeding establishments."

Speaking to the Dog's Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden this week, she also pointed out that a new law may have unintended consequences.

For example, as it stands, anyone can set up an animal shelter and use that as cover for puppy sales.

Clearly the law will have to be carefully drafted and through the government consultation, which Michael Gove now says will start this summer, the wording will start to emerge.

I'm told the prime minister is also very keen to see this new law sorted out soon.

The wheels of the parliamentary process move slowly, too slowly for some perhaps, but today is a massive victory for those campaigners who've devoted hours, days, months and years fighting for Lucy's Law.