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

Dogs, cats, horses, ponies and ferrets that meet the necessary requirements can move between EU countries if they have a pet 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 pet passport by following these steps:

1) You have to check if you can bring your pet into the UK.

2) The pet must be microchipped.

3) The pet must be vaccinated against rabies and if you're travelling from an unlisted country, your pet would need to have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the vaccination to prove that it's been taken and provides a satisfactory level of protection.

4) If you're traveling with a dog, it will also have to get tapeworm treatment and have this recorded in the pet passport.

5) Once all the above has been done successfully, you can get a pet passport from an authorised vet.

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

Non-EU countries health certificate

Dogs, cats and ferrets that do not have a valid pet passport and that will enter the UK or return to the UK from either a listed or unlisted country, require a Health Certificate.

The pet must enter the EU country within 10 days of the certificate being issued and can then travel between EU countries for up to 4 months.


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.


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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