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
  • 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.

Pet passport for travel

There are rules you need to comply with before you can travel to and from Great Britain with your pet.

Travelling with your pet from Great Britain to an EU country or Northern Ireland

If you live in Great Britain, existing pet passports issued there can't be used for travel to the EU or Northern Ireland. Instead, you need to get an Animal Health Certificate. To get this from an authorised vet, you'll need proof of your pet's vaccination history and microchipping date.

If you're travelling with a dog to a tapeworm-free country, you'll also have to get the dog treated against tapeworm at least 24 – 120 hours before arriving in the EU country.

The certificate is only valid for one trip to the EU, so each time you travel to the EU you'll have to get a new one. You have to enter the EU within 10 days of the certificate being issued. It remains valid for a maximum of 4 months - you have to leave with your pet before then.

On entry into the EU or Northern Ireland, you also need to show proof of a valid rabies vaccination, microchipping and (where needed) tapeworm treatment.

Travelling with your pet to Great Britain

If you live in the EU, you can travel to Great Britain with your pet if you have an existing EU pet passport.

All owners of dogs, cats and ferrets must ensure that before entering Great Britain, their pets are microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. If travelling from the EU or certain other listed countries, the primary rabies vaccination must be done at least 21 days before entry. If you're travelling from an EU unlisted country, your pet would also need to have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the vaccination to prove that it's been taken and that it is effective in providing a satisfactory level of protection.

Unless you're traveling to Great Britain directly from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta, dogs require tapeworm treatment at least 24 – 120 hours before arriving.


All dogs in the UK, with some exceptions, must be microchipped at 8 weeks (or older if they're not yet microchipped).

There are some specific instances where microchipping is necessary for other animals, e.g. horses. Microchipping is otherwise largely voluntary.

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