LONDON • Britain is forbidding puppies and kittens from being sold by pet shops in a bid to crack down on animal exploitation and abuse.
The government said it will roll out the legislation next year after public consultations showed 95 per cent support for the ban.
"This will mean that anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months must either deal directly with the breeder or with an animal rehoming centre," the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said as part of its Christmas animal welfare push.
The measure is commonly called Lucy's Law in honour of a cavalier king charles spaniel that was rescued from a puppy farm in Wales in 2013. Lucy, who died in 2016, spent most of her life in a cage and was unable to breed because of her lack of movement.
Activist Lisa Garner took her home and launched a social media awareness campaign that changed the way Britons get their pets.
The government said the new law would help "end the terrible welfare conditions found in puppy farming and solve a range of existing animal welfare issues".
The government believes the ban will keep "high-volume, low-welfare breeders" - both licensed and unlicensed - from flooding pet shops with puppies and kittens raised in unethical conditions.
The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) veterinary charity said 49 per cent of UK adults owned at least one pet this year. PDSA's estimated cat population of 11.1 million edged out the 8.9 million dogs and one million rabbits, whose numbers have nearly halved since 2011.
The British government has unfurled a number of animal welfare initiatives in the past few months that activists hope other European countries will soon follow.
Defra is now looking at legislation requiring all non-commercial rescue and rehoming centres to have a licence. It separately urged families to steer clear of the temptation to buy their kids pets as Christmas gifts. "This carries a number of risks and can have tragic consequences for animal welfare when pets are either abandoned or given to rehoming centres to deal with," it said.