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.

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