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Purchasing pets and animals - Your rights to bear in mind to avoid being bitten!

People choose to take on the responsibility of a household pet for different reasons - some for companionship, others as a hobby - some even to enter prestigious competitions for best-in-show or breed for profit! Like any other consumer item, the purchase of a pet can leave even the more animal-savvy amongst us barking in anger when we realise that the animal or pet product of choice isn’t what we initially bargained for.

Research conducted by Mintel’s ‘Pet Food & Pet Care Retailing UK 2018’ predicted that consumer expenditure on the pet and pet services markets is set to be an estimated £1.7bn in 2019, with expected growth to £2.1bn by 2023 (25% growth!). This demonstration of the increasing market value, as well as the growing number of pet owners in the UK, highlight that this is a very lucrative market. While there are many diligent and honest breeders and suppliers out there, as with any other commodity, there are always the more dubious rogue traders, placing profit ahead of the welfare of the animals and people that they interact with.

These illegal practises are manifold and range from being mis-sold one breed of dog for another, to being sold potentially dangerous counterfeit animal food or grooming products. Care should always be taken in making purchases of pet supplies and ensuring that these are from reputable sources. The most important rule to remember is that if it sounds too good to be true, then the chances are it probably is. Cheaper goods from dubious sources could potentially be counterfeit and as such, not open to the rigour of regulatory and quality assurance checks that would be in place with a reputable supplier.

‘Cheaper goods are often counterfeit and as such, not open to the rigour of regulatory and quality assurance checks that they would be if purchased from a reputable supplier’.


Another area for consideration when purchasing a pet is the general health and wellbeing of the animal. It is important to ensure that any pet being purchased is healthy and does not demonstrate any behavioural or personality concerns such as aggression or extreme shyness, as these may indicate that the animal has been neglected or abused. Like any other consumer product, the purchase of pets is protected by consumer law.

The Consumer Rights Act (2015), states that any animal purchased must be ‘in good health and free from illness’ and ‘as described, any information provided about breed or pedigree be accurate’ as well as ‘fit for purpose’, which could extend to situations where an advert states that the animal is good with children or other pets and the opposite is true. The protections provided by the Consumer Rights Act are good in theory. However, they can only be enforced if the supply line is traceable. If there is an issue with the health of the animal and the seller can be traced, a full or partial refund can be requested, depending on the length of time that has lapsed. If you have any concerns about the health or wellbeing of an animal, this can be reported to the Scottish SPCA.

So, what can we do to avoid making a costly mistake? Here are our top tips for happier and healthier purchasing of pets and their associated products –

  • Always ensure the pet is collected from the place it has lived. Avoid agreeing to meet the seller in a car park / train station or out-of-doors, even if it means shortening the journey for pickup.
  • Never pay deposits or balances by money or bank transfer. Ensure that payment is always made face-to-face as these types of transfer can be difficult to trace or reclaim through the bank due to them being authorised payments.
  • Visit the animal on several occasions before purchase to ensure that the animal is as described, and it is a good match with you and anyone else living with you.
  • Ensure that pet food and toys are only purchased from reputable retailers. Remember that if the item and its cost seem too good to be true, then they probably are!

If you believe you have been mis-sold an animal, or have concerns about someone selling animals illegally and need more advice on the matter, you can contact on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot, Instagram: and Facebook:, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at

Last updated: 27 August 2019

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