Thinking of Buying a Pet Animal? Here is Your Complete Guide to Your Consumer Rights and Obligations when Buying Pet Animals.

What is Pet Ownership?

“Pet ownership often starts with buying your pet, and by law, you must be at least 16 years old to buy an animal. Adults are legally responsible for the welfare of their children’s pets.”

You can play a part in fighting the illegal trade in pet animals by following some simple guidelines.


When you buy a pet from a shop, the law protects you as a consumer. That means that if your pet gets sick or dies shortly after you buy it, the pet shop may give you a refund or replace your pet. But, if you buy an animal from a private seller, you have fewer rights. 

Do not buy a cat or dog from unknown sources or people. It is important that you know where the animal comes from, and where it was born.

The government advises us to be particularly careful when buying dogs or cats advertised on the internet, such as Facebook, or through local media such as a newspaper.

Illegally imported dogs and cats may not only carry diseases such as rabies but may also be advertised in a way that misleads the buyer regarding the animal’s history, breed or pedigree.

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Guidelines to follow when buying a cat or dog:

  • Purchasing a cat or dog within the U.K
  • Purchasing a car or dog outside the U.K
  • Purchasing a puppy
  • Trade-in illegally importecats and dogs
  • Mandatory micro-chipping
  • The Animal Welfare Act 2016

If you are purchasing a cat or dog within the UK:

  • Buy your animal from a reputable supplier – advice on buying a dog or cat is available from a range of animal organisations, such as Dog Advisory CouncilKennel Club, the Dogs Trust and the RSPCA.
  • Check the animal’s history by speaking to a previous owner – if you are buying a puppy or kitten, you should ask to see it with its mother and the rest of the litter.

If you are purchasing a cat or dog outside of the UK:

  • View the animal and its documentation before you buy

If the animal, was born outside the UK it must have either a pet passport or a veterinary certificate. The pet passport needs to confirm that it was vaccinated against rabies at the correct age, according to the manufacturer’s data sheet (normally at three months of age). For dogs, the passport should also show that it has been treated for tapeworm.

If you have any doubts about an animal speak to your vet before agreeing to buy it.

Purchasing a puppy:

  • Always see the puppy with its mother,
  • Always, if possible, see the puppy in its natural environment,
  • Never buy a puppy younger than 8 weeks old.

Defra encourages those interested in buying a puppy to read through the Puppy Information Pack by the RSPCA and Animal Welfare Foundation and to use the puppy contract to help you obtain as much information about your new pet as possible.

Trade-in illegally imported cats and dogs

Criminals will buy and sell dogs and cats that have been imported illegally from abroad. This trade puts the health of the animals, and the general public, at risk from diseases including rabies.

All dogs and cats entering the UK, must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before entering. In addition, all dogs must be treated for tapeworm.

If your new pet is found to be illegally imported and non-compliant with disease control rules, then you may find yourself having to pay for costly quarantine and veterinary bills. If you are unable to meet these costs, this may leave the local authority with no option other than to euthanase (put down) the animal.

Your local authority may also conduct an investigation into potential criminal offences. You could become a witness in any further enforcement action.

Mandatory Micro Chipping

Since 2016, micro-chipping dogs became compulsory by law. The law states, any dog over the age of eight weeks must be micro-chipped and registered on a national database.

If the local authority finds a dog without a microchip, they can order the owner to microchip their dog within 21 days, or face a fine of £500.

The Animal Welfare Act 2016:

The Act places a ‘duty of care’ on pet owners to provide for their animals’ basic needs, such as adequate food and water, veterinary treatment and an appropriate environment in which to live. Unlike previous legislation, the Act applies to all animals on common land.

The Act states, that owners must take all reasonable steps to ensure the:

•    need for a suitable environment.

•    need for a suitable diet.

•    need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (such as exercise).

•    need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals.

•    need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.


Owners who do not look after their animals correctly, can be banned from owning them, fined up to £20,000, or be sent to prison.

This Article is written by our COP, and passionate Animal Rights Activist Miss Katherine Hannigan.

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