Introduction to your legal rights

Introduction to your legal rights


As a consumer, we all have rights when buying goods from a business as consumers.

If you buy a horse or pony, a dog or a puppy, or a cat or a kitten, it must be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for its purpose; and
  • as described.

Consumer protection

The main laws that protect these rights in England and Wales are the following:

  • Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
  • The Consumer Rights Act
  • Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
  • Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
  • Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (for trade descriptions)

Similar legal protection is provided under Scottish law.

Types of animals

The law historically divides animals into the following 2 groups:

  • Domestic animals - animals that are tame or trained to live with people.
  • Wild animals - naturally wild animals, as well those that are more timid but can't be tamed.

Domestic animals

Domestic animals can be owned like any other property. They remain the property of the owner even when they stray or are lost. If anyone interferes with an owner's domestic animal, the owners are entitled to start legal proceedings against them.

Owners of a domestic animal are responsible for its actions and must take care of them.

Selling a domestic animal

Selling domestic animals is subject to the ordinary laws of contract. This means that the laws that apply to the sale of any other goods also apply here. For example, if the seller carries on a business of selling animals and the buyer has made it clear that the animal is needed for a particular purpose, there will be an 'implied term' in the contract, i.e. automatically part of a contract even if it's not stated. This implied term promises that the animal is fit for that particular purpose.

However, if the seller is a private individual, this term isn't implied. Therefore, a buyer who is buying from a private individual should ensure that the animal has been fully checked and that the seller confirms in writing that the animal does in fact have the characteristics required.

Dangerous animals

Animals may be dangerous not only because of the diseases they can carry, but because of the harm they can cause. The law tries to protect the public from these animals by making owners of certain animals get a licence. In some cases, certain animals are banned altogether.

Moving animals between EU countries

Dogs, cats, horses, ponies and ferrets that meet the necessary requirements can move between EU countries if they have an EU passport. All EU countries recognise this document. Certain non-EU listed countries can also issue a passport.

The passport is accepted for entry to the UK from other Member States and qualifying countries.

Owners of dogs, cats and ferrets can get a passport using the UK Pet Travel Scheme (also known as the 'Pet Passport Scheme').

It involves a 3-stage process:

1) The pet must be microchipped.

2) The pet must be vaccinated against rabies.

3) After the vaccination, the pet must give a blood sample, which is labelled. This is tested by a laboratory recognised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to prove that the vaccination has been taken and that it provides a satisfactory level of protection. If the vaccination has been taken, a UK pet passport can be issued.

Owners of horses and ponies can get a passport through an authorised passport issuing office.

Non-EU countries certificate

Dogs, cats and ferrets entering the EU (including the UK) travelling from non-EU countries require a Third Country Official Veterinary Certificate (PDF). This certificate can only be used to enter the UK once it's completed and issued in a listed and unlisted country.


Under the Pet Travel Scheme, dogs, cats and ferrets are able to enter or re-enter the UK from any of the EU and other countries listed without being put in quarantine. But this will only be allowed if they meet the rules of the scheme. These rules differ according to which country the pet is travelling from.

Countries that aren't listed have different rules about how to bring your pet into the UK and quarantine.


There is no formal legal requirement to microchip pets in general for identity purposes (although all dogs will need to be microchipped by 6 April 2016). There are some specific examples of where microchipping is necessary, e.g. horses. Microchipping is otherwise largely voluntary.

Generally, UK vets won't microchip a cat or dog that is under 3 months because the microchip is likely to move from where it's been injected. However, it's recommended that all dogs are microchipped after this age.

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