From trips to the vet to micro-chipping, being a good pet owner means knowing the law.

Mandatory micro-chipping

They say dogs are man's best friend, and losing a much-loved pet can be devastating. Micro-chipping offers the best chance of a missing animal's safe return.

More than 86% of UK dog owners have already micro-chipped their pets. But, on 6 April this year, micro-chipping dogs became compulsory. Any dog over the age of eight weeks must be micro-chipped and registered on a national database.

If a local authority finds a dog without a microchip, it can order the owner to microchip their dog within 21 days, or face a fine of £500.

Buying a pet

Pet ownership often starts with buying your pet, and by law you must be at least 16 years old to buy an animal. Adults are legally responsible for the welfare of their children's pets.

When you buy a pet from a shop, the law protects you as a consumer. That means that if your pet gets sick or dies shortly after you buy it, the pet shop may give you a refund or replace your pet.

If you buy an animal from a private seller, you have fewer rights. For more about your rights, visit Citizens Advice's website.

Caring for animals

The Animal Welfare Act is now 10 years old. It states that owners must take all reasonable steps to:

  • meet their pets' needs
  • give them enough food and water
  • house them properly, and
  • protect them from pain, suffering, injury and disease

People who don't look after their animals can be banned from owning them, fined up to £20,000, or even be sent to prison.

Going to the vet

Trips to the vets are part and parcel of owning a pet, and the law protects you and your animals while you're there.

If the treatment a vet gives doesn't meet a reasonable standard of care and injures your pet, you can complain or take legal action.

You should get legal advice early on. Citizens Advice can help. In some cases, it makes sense to talk to a lawyer.

Tags
Pets

Your Comments

Jacqui Smith says:

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 11:17
Comment
I have 2 standard dachshunds who are very nervous after being attacked by a terrier years ago. My dogs were on leads, the terrier wasn't, it was a terrifying attack which would have ended up with 1 of my dogs being killed, had a passers-by not stopped and grabbed up my dog( with the terrier hanging onto my dogs tail, which it broke) I hope daily that it would become law for every dog to be on a lead when out in public.

Gaynor bodily says:

Sun, 05/01/2016 - 10:53

In reply to by Jacqui Smith

Comment
Hi I wish to that all dogs on public paths should be on a lead and made law.whenever I'm out with my young children and there's a dog off a lead I get my kids to stay close to me or we even cross the road as I don't want my child to be bitten.the owners always say 'it's ok they don't bite' but you can never be to sure of any dog.i also get my child to ask the owner if they can stroke the dog but that is always when they are on a lead.im a dog owner and my dog is always on his lead.lets hope it does become law that would be good

Linda savage says:

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 19:14

In reply to by Jacqui Smith

Comment
6 weeks ago I was knocked down by a dog not on a lead a very large dog, it dislocated my knee cap put me in hospital and I have had trouble walking ever since. The people whose dog did it still,do not have it on a lead. I am a very fit 68 but I feel like life is on hold

Sarah says:

Fri, 05/13/2016 - 15:10

In reply to by Jacqui Smith

Comment
What a rediculous thing to say just because you've had a bad experience. I agree that aggressive dogs should be on a lead/muzzled or not walked in a public park but saying all dogs need to be on a lead is totally unnecessary. I have two medium sized dogs who wouldn't get half enough exercise on the lead.

Terry Mculloch says:

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 15:33

In reply to by Jacqui Smith

Comment
Myself and now my x-friend decided to breed puppies from our huskies myself having male dog.there was only one pup born.so where do I stand in law to having money from sale of pup when old enough

Diane Galea says:

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 11:57

In reply to by Jacqui Smith

Comment
I was not as lucky unfortunately. My beatiful yorkshire terrier was on a lead and the jack russel that attacked him was not. One bite to the neck and killed him on the spot. We were completely heart broken. It should always be against the law to have dogs off the lead in parks and out in public.

Jayne Strange says:

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 10:14
Comment
I have a very nervous dog, and is always on the lead. Two years ago he was attached by a dog off the lead, and the owner blamed me as her dog doesn't like other dogs on the lead, what I say it is her that is to blame, she couldn't get her dog back on recall, he was just obsessed with mine...

I am a Reactive dog owner, I want all to understand that no obeying leash laws puts all dogs in dangerous situations. These situations often cause a spike in my stress level. I try not to let this stress at diffusing potential disaster leak out in the form of angry shouting, but sometimes it happens.

Shouting happens because I, as the owner of the reactive dog, often get saddled with 100% responsibility for the incident. If I could only control my dog more, somehow, then none of this would ever happen.

But here's the rub: I am already controlling my dog - he's on a lead....

What do we hear... "its okay, my dog is friendly", No it is not okay, just because your dog is friendly doesn't mean all dogs are - please remember. When a dog runs up to a dog on a leash they could become scared or reactive - Owners need to respect other owners and need their space. Not all dogs want the added attention or intrusion. If you have no voice control over your dog off leash then keep them on it.

Please bring a law in.

Martin Hardman says:

Fri, 05/13/2016 - 10:33

In reply to by Jayne Strange

Comment
There is already a law. Go on gov.uk and search "Controlling your dog in public". No need for this ridiculous lurch back to "all dogs should be on a lead in public" . I walk my dog in many nature reserves in public and never had a problem with him or seen a problem with any other dog. Let's be sensible. And if you don't like the current law campaign to have it changed. Instead of stating "we need a law" when one already exists. Little Britain...

Claire says:

Sat, 05/14/2016 - 09:06
Comment
I'd like to see dog parks in place within the UK as they do in USA.
I believe dogs need to run and play with other dogs but in a safe, enclosed environment.

izzie says:

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 17:56
Comment
im 16 so i am now legally buy myself a pet however according to this my parents take responsiblity for the welfare my um will let me have one but my dad will not if i bought myself a pet could they make me get rid of it like selling it ect?

alistair mitchell says:

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 17:07
Comment
we have sold a dog over 48 hours a ago with the new owner he now wants to return it as it doesn't get on with his dog he says he has a 14 day cooling of period so he thinks he can return the dog . please could you help thanks.

Jennie mason says:

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 23:27

In reply to by alistair mitchell

Comment
I have 6 dogs and when I collected all of my dogs from various homes and environments, I always took my current dogs and the new dog for a walk In a neutral environment in order for them to meet and assess their compatibility, but as a responsible breeder, you do have a responsibility to accept the pet back into your safe environment if a rehoming doesn’t work out.
Hope it goes okay & your doggo meets the right family.

Jennie mason says:

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 23:27

In reply to by alistair mitchell

Comment
I have 6 dogs and when I collected all of my dogs from various homes and environments, I always took my current dogs and the new dog for a walk In a neutral environment in order for them to meet and assess their compatibility, but as a responsible breeder, you do have a responsibility to accept the pet back into your safe environment if a rehoming doesn’t work out.
Hope it goes okay & your doggo meets the right family.

jan says:

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 20:07
Comment
iam about to adopt an older dog as a private sale, what do I have to do about the micro chip and is there anything else i need to know. thank you

Legal Choices says:

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:56

In reply to by jan

Comment
Hi Jan
There is information about the legal requirements on you as the new owner, and what you need to do to update the microchip details, on the Dog's Trust's website.
There are a number of official databases that hold microchip details and you need to update the owner details with the database that relates to your dog's microchip. Again there is information on this on the Dog's Trust website.

Victoria Barton says:

Sun, 03/25/2018 - 22:18
Comment
Hi can you give me some advice please.

I have had fall out with my family and moved out of my mums home into my boyfriends.
Without my knowledge my mum has given my dog to my brother who is out right refusing to give him back to me.
I am currently trying to fight my self better from a mental illness and my dog is a great source of comfort for me.
He is registered in my name and I have proof that he is my dog.
I don't feel safe going to my brothers house to get my dog back.
Can anyone please help.

Amy Anon says:

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 10:22
Comment
My mother in law gave my children a puppy from her litter for a joint birthday present. She then gave her other puppy as she said she was unable to look after it and we have had both dogs now for 8 months.
She's got herself in a strop and is now saying that because she has never transferred ownership she is going to take them back. I've paid any bills, fed them, had them clipped etc and they were given as gifts to my children.
Do I have any say in whether they get taken away?

Mai says:

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 20:02
Comment
Hello,
I hope you can help? Recently we acquired a female dog through a relitive who is a homeless drug addict by choice. She has been sofa surfing and stated she was being homes in a shelter but no animals allowed and told us she's going to have to get rid of her dog.
I agreed I would take the dog in until she could have her back but other family members have since asked me to not keep the dog as the homeless drug addict will never be fit to care for her. She's apparently done this with three other dogs in the past free years.
If over time the dog happily settles here and the said relative doesn't wants her back what would my rights be? As she wouldn't give her the care or vet care she needs.
Also I'm worried if when I take her to the vets they may scan her and see that the said relative is in fact not the registered owner at all and the dog is then taken and returned to the initial owners.
If it turns out she has been stolen then rightfully so she be returned. I just don't want to look after her and love her then loose her. So that's why I need to get this sorted now.

Jeremy says:

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 01:17
Comment
What are the laws on selling dogs to 16 year olds, I understand shops can sell to 16 year olds but puppy sellers are private? Can you aquire a puppy at 16

Freya Roberts says:

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 01:15
Comment
Basically, my rotweiller/husky was brought for me and my little brother as a present for Christmas last year, but because my mum lost her house die to reasons, my boyfriend took my dog on unroll my mum got a place of her own to have it again or me to get a place of my own and me habit again, but I am now living with my boyfriend, my mum has only just got a place of her own, she's showed no interest in the dog for months on end apart from when she payee for food once and a set of working and fleeing, everything else I've payee for Andy boyfriend, from fleeing to working to new leads and collars and harnesses to toys and food and medication when he was poorly to vets bills and egg, she's done nothing as even though it was brought for me and my brother, it's in her name and she claims to say it's hers, when I've had it since November last year, he's quite content where he is he's happy and loving and cared for and etc, I'm afraid he won't get that at my mum's, so how do I go about keeping him without it's costing me money go take her to court over it, because that feels like my only option, as I don't want to go pay money to change his details in my name when she can only go change it back again, and I've wasted money.

Paula Glancy says:

Sat, 08/10/2019 - 18:12

In reply to by Freya Roberts

Comment
Hi Freya I am in the same situation she was my sons puppy but he couldn't look after her I've had her from 4 months old last year
She in dog rescue and they wont give me her but I will get her no matter what

Steve says:

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 11:15
Comment
I have a Staffie that I've owned for 3 years, he has a lovely nature and has never shown any aggression toward any other animal or person. Recently I was walking him on the green area where we go 4 or 5 times a day when I saw a lady who has recently moved to the area, walking her jack Russel towards us. I stopped and locked the lead at about 5 feet and my dog lay down on the grass. I shouted " is he ok with other dogs?", she answered yes and continued toward us, ( I later discovered that she had only had the dog for a week from a friend who had him for 4 years). When the dog was level with mine, it bared its teeth and my dog pinned it, I won't use the word attacked, as he didn't even stand up, he pushed him to the floor and held him down until I shouted loose at which he instantly moved away.
His tooth had gone in quite deeply, but there was no pulling, shaking or tearing, just a push to the floor, it's possible he was protecting me.
I told her to take him to the vets to get him checked and to let me know the bill and I would sort it. Even though she had brought the dog to us I still felt a responsibility as my dog had after all injured hers.
The next day I went to see her and she hadn't taken it to the vets, but later that evening she came to me and said that she had now taken him and that the wound was infected and he needed antibiotics and other meds and the bill was £85. I pointed out that if she had taken him on the evening it happened then there probably wouldn't be any infection, I gave her the money for the bill.
2 Dys later I went to see how he was, she told me he hadn't had the medication because he hadn't eaten anything since the incident, except some chicken that she had cooked, but she wasn't buying chicken every day. I pointed out that he was eating dry dog food as we spoke and she said yes but the medication is in his other food. While we were there she showed me her finger that he had bitten when she tried to give it in a syringe and he growled and bared his teeth at myself and my grandson who was with me.
She has come today to say that he may have to have an operation as it isn't healing and I pointed out that she hasn't given the medication so any further infection is due to her not treating him. She said that she is seeking legal advice and I am worried now that my dog who plays with every other dog on the green, may now be labelled as dangerous, when in fact he isn't.

Lynette Crafton says:

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 19:08
Comment
My daughter and her family took my dog without my permission to the vets to be be put down she was microchipped to me what can I legally do and how can I get my dogs body to cremate

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 09:26

In reply to by Lynette Crafton

Comment
Hi Lynette

Here are some links that might be of use:

https://www.yourdog.co.uk/dog-care-and-advice/your-dogs-health/having-your-dog-cremated/

https://appcc.org.uk/

Hope this helps

Thanks

Legal Choices

Hailie Callais says:

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 06:03
Comment
Is there an age requirement for putting a dog in your name? Or do you go through that when you buy a dog?

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 09:14

In reply to by Hailie Callais

Comment
Hi Hailie

There might be some useful information on the below link:

https://www.petlog.org.uk/transfer-of-keepership/


Hope it helps

Thanks

Legal Choices

Jasmine says:

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 22:13
Comment
PLEASE HELP!

At the end of January 2019 my parents sold my puppy. They said I wasn’t allowed her however the man who bought her made a verbal agreement with me that I can get her back when I move out of my parents house. Now around 2 months later I got an offer for a flat and he has still not returned the dog.
My mum is planning on taking him to court to try and get her back but will this work? What will happen?

I have all the proof that I bought this dog and my parents regretting selling her.

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 09:35

In reply to by Jasmine

Comment
Hi Jasmine

I'm sorry to hear this.

Here are some links with information that you might find useful:

https://www.inbrief.co.uk/animal-law/law-relating-to-the-sale-of-dogs/

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-are-my-consumer-rights-when-buying-a-puppy-kitten-or-other-pet

Thanks

Legal Choices

karen spence says:

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 02:51
Comment
My son bought a dog and registered it in both his name and his 17 year old sons name,the son has now move out and wants to take the dog with him,he has no income, he goes to collage,my son paid £1000.for the dog,can grandson take it?

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 11:03

In reply to by karen spence

Comment
Hi Karen

Here are some links with information that you might find useful:

https://www.inbrief.co.uk/animal-law/law-relating-to-the-sale-of-dogs/

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-are-my-consumer-rights-when-buying-a-puppy-kitten-or-other-pet

Thanks

Legal Choices

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