One of Britain’s best-loved vets is drinking an oat milk flat white in his local coffee shop. He’s on the phone, explaining to a newspaper columnist how a change in legislation of puppy farming has implications for the rest of the UK. “Scotland really needs this law,” he explains.
I ask Marc Abraham how the latest campaign is going. “As well as it can be,” he shrugs resignedly.
Abraham began his TV career as a resident vet on The Paul O’Grady Show and regularly gives advice on programmes including This Morning and BBC Breakfast. When not on the campaign trail or consulting in his Brighton practice, Abraham volunteers – from rescuing dancing bears in Ukraine to saving cats and dogs in post-tsunami Thailand.
Awarded ‘Vet of the Year’ three times, Abraham is secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group and the author of two books and more than 1,000 articles and blogs on caring for animals.
Pup Aid was founded by Abraham nine years ago, originally as a fun dog show to create awareness of the cruelties of puppy farming, creating #wheresmum in 2015 to help the public choose a healthy, happy dog. Although official government guidance suggests a puppy should be seen with its mother before it is purchased, using some shops and breeders contravenes this advice. Well-meaning parents purchasing a puppy for a child will have no idea they are bringing a traumatised pet, probably with chronic health issues, into their home.
When Abraham met Lucy in 2016, he was reminded again of the horrors of puppy farming. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel had spent most of her life malnourished, petrified and pregnant in a tiny cage. When she was rescued, Lucy was epileptic and so hunched over from forced breeding she could barely walk, the fate of thousands of dogs forced to breed in appalling conditions.
In December last year, as a tribute to her, ‘Lucy’s Law’ was launched to ban third-party puppy sales by dealers who enable puppy farming to happen behind closed doors. Abraham kicked off the campaign in Parliament, with the support of the Daily Mirror, Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan, campaigners and politicians.
#LucysLaw has attracted the support of more than 130 MPs, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who has tweeted in support, and celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Rachel Riley, Dr Brian May and Tracy-Ann Oberman. In February, the government announced a call for evidence and a #LucysLaw government e-petition created in March to show public support hit 100,000 signatories in 13 days and was debated in parliament on Monday.
Following the consultation, Abraham hopes an announcement will follow next month, banning third-party sales, which would force prospective dog owners directly to the breeders, or preferably consider rescue.
He believes this is the first step to stop the cruelty of puppy farms and can’t believe how far the campaign has come. “I was just a geeky Jew from Stanmore who loved to play chess and did extra homework. I never imagined the campaign would take me to Number Ten,” he says.
Growing up attending Edgware Reform synagogue, he cites his Jewish background as a huge influence. “Jews fight for those who can’t represent themselves. A society is measured by how it treats the vulnerable. Animals are part of that.”
Abraham’s grandmother, Judy Benton, sneaked passage into the UK from Dresden in 1938, aged just 17. Tragically, she found out after the war her parents had been murdered in Auschwitz. Abraham says his grandmother is his biggest inspiration, teaching him “anything is possible”.
Abraham sat next to her in the House of Commons during his first 2014 e-petition debate, the same room where parliament debated mobilisation of the Kindertransport to save Jewish children.
Yet #LucysLaw faces stiff opposition.
A prospective change in the law threatens the massive commercial interests of the UK pet industry, whose business models often depend on pets being sold in store. Even some of the UK’s best-loved animal charities have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, Abraham says, effectively keeping puppies in pet shops. But “campaigning is creative. Every time we hit a brick wall, we find a new way”.
What keeps him going? “The end game.” With sights on changing legislation in the rest of the UK before taking on US law, he is resolute, and “prepared for the long haul”.
So what is his advice on the best way to buy a puppy? “Always go to a rescue centre,” he says. “And if you’re set on purchasing from a breeder, make sure you get to see the puppy interact with its mum.”
- You can help #LucysLaw by signing the petition via: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/213451 and attending Pup Aid’s fun, celebrity-judged dog show in Primrose Hill on 1 September
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