Pet shops in England should be banned from selling puppies and kittens, the government proposed Wednesday, in a bid to put the squeeze on unscrupulous puppy farms.

Puppies or kittens less than six months old will have to be bought directly from the breeder or adopted from a rescue centre, under the proposed new law.

The government is concerned that third-party sales lead to poorer welfare conditions.

"We are proposing to ban commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England," the environment ministry said, as it launched a one-month public consultation on their plans.

"This will prevent pet shops, pet dealers, and other outlets from selling these animals in England unless they themselves had bred them."

The government believes that third-party sales mean animals are too often separated early from their mothers, undertake multiple journeys and are introduced to several new and unfamiliar environments, harming their welfare.

Estimates for the numbers of puppies sold via third parties in Britain range between 40,000 and 80,000.

The Kennel Club, which registers newborn puppies, said it was "a vital step forward to tackling the cruel puppy farming industry".

"It will stop the suffering of many dogs and send a very strong message to puppy buyers that it is never OK to see a puppy in any environment other than the one it was born and raised in, and with its mum," said the club‘s secretary Caroline Kisko.

A petition calling for such a ban was signed by nearly 150,000 people and was debated in parliament in May.

Television vet Marc Abraham, who kickstarted the campaign, said the plan would make all breeders and puppy farms "completely transparent and accountable" which "completely raises the stakes for animal welfare".

"There‘s nowhere to hide: a pet shop can‘t blame the breeder and the breeder can‘t blame the pet shop," he told radio.