Before you buy your new companion, it’s worth considering the four things that will broadly determine how strong your consumer rights are, and what you can do if anything goes wrong:
Pets are considered ‘goods’ in the eyes of the law. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 stipulates that goods must:
Your rights under the Consumer Rights Act relate to purchases from business sellers (eg pet shops).
If these consumer rights are breached, you may be entitled to reject the goods and receive a refund or to request a replacement.
Proving whether a pet is of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose can be difficult and any dispute would boil down to the tricky question of what it would have been reasonable for the seller to have known.
When purchasing a pet, remember to look out for any visible problems or issues before you commit to buying.
It is not always clear whether a breeder should be considered a business seller or private seller.
But the general rule - whether or not the breeder is licensed - is: if the breeder’s intention is to make money from breeding that animal, then they it's a business seller.
You have fewer rights when you buy a pet from a private seller, and key parts of the Consumer Rights Act don't apply.
If you purchase a pet from a private seller, rather than a business seller, you only have the right for the goods to match the description - for your pet to be ‘as described’.
Contractual rules about misrepresentation do apply, however. So, legally, the seller must:
Ensure that you always get receipts, as well as any accompanying paperwork confirming you own your pet.
If you’re asked to pay a deposit, make sure that it is clearly established under what circumstances the deposit should be returned to you if the purchase doesn't go ahead.
A puppy farm, also known as a puppy mill, is a high volume breeding facility where puppies are bred purely for commercial profit, often in poor conditions, with little regard for animal welfare and at an unhealthy rate.
Try to get as much information about the animal’s background as you can and take steps to avoid purchasing any puppies born and raised on a puppy farm.
If you buy a pet from a puppy mill, there’s an increased likelihood your pet will have health complications resulting from the conditions they were raised in.
If you're buying from a private seller, the onus is on you as the buyer to ask all the right questions before making the purchase.
The seller doesn't have to volunteer extra information so, if you don't ask questions, you may not have the full picture of the animal's history or be aware of any potential faults.
If a problem occurs later on and it’s something you didn’t ask about, you have no rights.
There are two aspects to the description: what was written and what is said when you are there.
This means it’s important to ask as many questions as you can. Make sure you ask about:
You could check with your local vet before you purchase the animal if there are any additional questions you'll be asking or signs to watch out for when you meet the animal.
Have someone with you as a witness and don’t be afraid to ask for a vet check if you have your heart set on the animal.
You’ll have to pay for a vet check, but it can be well worth doing this in the long run, especially if it reveals any underlying health issues.
If you’re asking the questions in person, write down all the answers you’re told and ask for the seller to agree to these with a signature.
If you can, try to ask the questions over email before you commit to meeting the seller and animal.
This is to make sure you’re getting as much information as possible in writing, as this will make it easier for you to complain if things go wrong later down the line.
For breeders and sellers, a puppy contract is a record of a puppy’s breeding and care. A puppy contract can be used for all puppies, whether they are pedigree or not, and by any breeder or seller, including rescue centres.
You can use the information provided by the seller or breeder in the puppy contract to decide on whether you want the puppy.
If you have a puppy contract, you can also make a complaint later on if the puppy doesn’t match the description of the contract.
Soon after you bring your new pet home, make an appointment with the vet to check the following:
Make sure that any transactions such as paying a deposit or the full purchase price for an animal are done face-to-face, regardless of whether you pay by cheque, cash or bank transfer.
We've heard of scammers who will try and get you to transfer money before you’ve even met the pet or gone to pick it up, but the pet doesn't exist.
Don’t use services such as Paypal or Western Union money transfer to make a payment for a pet.