in the back
Lucy's flaw
Puppy farming, Issue 1541
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PAWS FOR THOUGHT: Cavapoochon puppies for sale
POLITICIANS and celebs were quick to take credit for so-called “Lucy's law”, the reform of animal welfare legislation that was meant to end the evils of puppy farming. But thousands of farmed puppies are still being shipped hundreds of miles and across borders for sale in English kennels, thanks to a gaping hole in the new legislation.

In Northern Ireland, one massive puppy factory alone – with up to 750 breeding bitches and 100 dogs – is able to supply hundreds of pups each month to satisfy demand in England. With puppies often commanding more than £2,000 each, it is big business.

Lucy's law was intended to ensure that puppies were bought directly from breeders and able to be viewed alongside their mothers. The aim was to stop them being taken prematurely with the added distress of being shipped long distances to be sold by pet shops and middle-merchants. But the new legislation only applies in England; and pet shops can still sell puppies if they are also the “breeders” – no matter where they hold a breeding licence.

'Factory farming'
Reform was overdue following countless reports on factory-farm horrors. One was BBC Scotland's The Dog Factory, featuring Furnish Kennels in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, run by brothers David and Jonathan Hamilton, then licensed to keep more than 500 breeding bitches. Covert footage filmed in 2015 prompted canine expert Dr John Bradshaw, of Bristol University, to condemn it as “an abhorrent mixture of the worst of factory farming and dog breeding”.

But the Eye has learnt that the owners of two English kennels which both currently sell high volumes of puppies, are also “pet shops” and have acquired breeders' licences at what was Furnish Kennels. The premises are still owned by the Hamilton brothers who now operate as the UK Dog Breeding Academy. Kelly's Kennels in Warrington and Douglas Hall Kennels in Pendle can therefore ship in thousands of puppies over the Irish Sea to be sold at their English premises.

Thanks to the woolly-worded legislation, they only have to demonstrate “control” over decisions governing the breeding process at the Fivemiletown site. Thus campaigners found that Kelly's, with a local Warrington council breeding licence allowing a maximum 46 litters a year (about 276 puppies with average litters of six), was able to sell around 455 in a three-month period – courtesy of their other NI licence from Fermanagh and Omagh council. Issued just before Lucy's law came into effect last April, it allows Kelly's to have a massive 300 breeding bitches at Fivemiletown, thus enabling a constant supply of fashionable pooches, including its “unique CavaPooChons”, at £2,500 a pup.

Douglas Hall, meanwhile, which in 2018 was the subject of 90 complaints including relating to sick puppies and incorrect paperwork, is currently licensed by Pendle council for an unknown number of “Westies” and crossbreed “Cauchons”. Yet it sells all sorts, including French bulldogs and retrievers, again courtesy of a licence for 200 bitches at Fivemiletown. With David Hamilton himself holding a further licence for 250 bitches and 100 dogs, that adds up to the 850 animals housed on the same sprawling site.

'Business as usual'
Back in 2015, the BBC Scotland documentary said the Hamilton brothers were supplying puppies to kennels in England. So Lucy's law appears to have changed little – except to create a two-tier system, with English breeders being held to higher standards by having to show purchasers puppies alongside their mothers, while “pet shops” do not. The only plus is that Douglas Hall and Kelly's now hold “five star” local authority licences, which are supposed to guarantee decent welfare conditions.

Puppy farms are allowed in Northern Ireland and Fermanagh council says it inspected the Hamiltons' premises last December and found it “fully compliant”. So that at least makes the “abhorrent” business of industrial size puppy farming appear more respectable. The Eye sought responses to the claim that Kelly's and Douglas Hall were exploiting the loophole in Lucy's law to carry on business as usual. As the Eye went to press, reply came there none.

More top stories in the latest issue:

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OXFORD JABS – SECOND DOSE
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WIGHT HOPE
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ROLE REVERSAL
A police and fire commissioner plans to take action over senior fire officers setting up their own businesses, after revelations in the Eye.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1541 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 3rd March 2021
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