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.


Your Comments

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 15:57

In reply to by Millisa

Hi Millisa]

Might be of some use

Legal Choices Team

Robert Rawlings says:

Tue, 12/31/2019 - 23:11
4 months ago a friend asked us to look after her dog as she had to move out of the family home with her son and could not take the dog with her. When we took the dog in she was shy, timid, skinny, didn't know how to play or have cuddles. That has all changed and when they came round to ask us for something they couldn't believe that she had been upstairs with me as she never did it with them! She has really bonded with me and along with my mothers dog, who we took in when she had to move into a home, follow me wherever I go. At the beginning of October our friend and son came to live with us for a few weeks. They paid no attention to the dog and she continued to be close by me all the time. I had to go round to their family home to collect some things for them and was shocked at the conditions they had been living in. At the end of October we had to ask them to leave as we could no longer tolerate their behaviour and as we were going on a short break didn't feel comfortable leaving them in the house. Since then they have been round once to collect mail, we have not received any money from them for the upkeep of the dog. We have brought her all her food, got her into a healthy condition, brought her new lead and collar as the ones she came with were not suitable. She has become a part of our family and our kids love her, we are now concerned about what would happen to her if they wanted to take her back. Where do we stand legally?

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 11:50

In reply to by Robert Rawlings

Hi Robert

You may want to seek legal advice on this matter. You may also want to check if the dog has been registered / microchipped.

Legal Choices Team

Anny says:

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 22:32
my boyfriend and me bought a dog from someone who posted on website that she wants to rehome him.
He is a 4years old Husky But when we arrived at her house to picked up a dog and ask about the microchip and vaccines “ the seller were said that they will give us the next day“ she needs to find the paper and give to us tomorrow but it has been nearly two weeks since we got him and we been asking but she keep change the subject asking how is the dog instead of giving ask the information we supposed to have.
Now we worried that something wrong with this dog.
We went the the Vet but they said they cant help in this case.
what should i do? Evidence we have it only the chat that we talking about purchased the dog.

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 11:43

In reply to by Anny

Hi Anny

Perhaps the dog is not registered or microchipped - you could check by taking the dog to the vets: See below links for further information:

Legal Choices Team

Summer says:

Sun, 02/02/2020 - 21:14
I had two cats which I bought off of my friend, they are registered under mine and my partners name, however my friend took the cats off of us as a temporary basis due to my partners mental health. So I have kindly asked if I can now have my cat back, my friend has become aggressive, refusing to allow me to have my cat back, telling me I have to pay for him (again plus extra), she is telling me to take her to court, that I will never have him back. What can I do? Also we did not get to micro chip him before he left however he is registered at the vets under our names. Someone please help as her behaviour has triggered anxiety and fear of leaving my house.

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 11:39

In reply to by Summer

Hi Summer

Here are some links for information. Have you got any documentation of proof of ownership?

You may need to seek individual legal advice if the issue persists.

Legal Choices Team

Andrew says:

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 22:02
Please could anyone give me some advice please, my girlfriend has moved in with me and her dog which she bought with her birthday money when she was 14 is still with her dad, I understand that at 14 the dog would still be her dads legally but does she have any legal right to it now as she is worried sick about how he treats it and the dog needs to see a vet for its glands but he wobt take it, she would like the dog to live with us but he refuses to talk to her

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 11:28

In reply to by Andrew

Hi Andrew,

Unfortunately you must be over the age of 16 to keep a dog. Has the dog been registered / microchipped yet?

Here are some link for further reading:$ja=tsid:|cid:1403862223|agid:61029692051|tid:dsa-582247928352|crid:269371529016|nw:g|rnd:4842413512183324681|dvc:c|adp:|mt:b|loc:9045888&gclid=Cj0KCQiAsvTxBRDkARIsAH4W_j9Tq9PnzGdf9YoaCFKKyR407m1mNct-aqlDt7Oi_YTlYdWjt-cwJCwaAmrcEALw_wcB

Legal Choices Team

Hifazat Ali says:

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 06:58
There should be dog parks in each city. Owners should go for regular vet visits. Dogs must get <a href="">vaccinations</a> annually and micro-chipped.

laurel kirlew says:

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 22:07
I bought a pet, Guinea-Pig with my house mate. She now keeps it in a small cage in the corner of the room soon as I moved out and doesn’t feed or water her properly! I paid for the cage and half for fendi ( let’s name) and refused to pay half back.

She does not look after her at all and I offered to take her back home whilst we found her a new home as my ex house mate abused her by leaving her in her own poo etc and didn’t feed or water her properly

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:14

In reply to by laurel kirlew

Hi Laurel,

Has the guinea-pig been registered in your name as the owner?


Legal Choices Team 

Craig Purvis says:

Fri, 03/20/2020 - 13:55
Hello, we are looking to adopt a very young dog from the Dogs Trust. The animal in question is in their care because it bit a young family member. Social Services and the Police were involved, but no legal proceedings were initiated. The Dogs Trust are placing 2 particular conditions on the adoption: 1) the dog must never, ever come into contact with children again; 2) Must never, ever be left off a leash in public space incase of contact with a child. The dog has no other history of aggression and it has been sen as an isolated incident. We are not aware of a Contingent Destruction Order or an Acceptable Behaviour Contract, only that the Police have said to the original owners that the dog mustn't come into contact with children. Are the Dogs Trust's pre-conditions legally binding/enforceable at some point in the future? Are they reasonable, given the young age of the dog and the breed's likely life expectancy? We are a child-free household, and routinely walked our previous dog on a lead, so our honest intentions are to comply with their wishes, but we are not perfect and cannot anticipate every scenario over the next decade. Advice please.

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:27

In reply to by Craig Purvis

Hi Craig,

Unfortunately we are not able to provide legal advice, this might be something you need to investigate futher. See below for some background reading:


Legal Choices Team 

Beth says:

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 07:51
Hi, looking for advice. I've recently left my partner. He has the dog we shared together. My concern is that our dog is very ill. To the point that I phoned the vets and was strongly advised to euthanize him, I agreed. My partner at the time didn't agree and believes there is nothing wrong with him, although the vet said my dog has brain damage. I don't want my dog to suffer due to my ex not listening. Is there anything I can do to get my dog back?

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:11

In reply to by Beth

Hi Beth,

Who is the dog registered to? 

There may be some useful information below:


Legal Choices Team 

Jess says:

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 23:29
Hi all,
I really need some help/advice.
I’m currently 16 and just coming up living with my dad for 6 month while living woth my mum before this I got an adopted puppy given to me for my birthday and I have papers to saying I’m the adopter and her microchip is in my name since I have moved out to my dads I have not been aloud any contact with the dog and I have tried everything and I have no idea what to do if anyone has any advise or anyway I could go about getting the dog I would be very grateful to hear from you

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:30

In reply to by Jess

Hi Jess,

Unfortunately we are not able to provide any legal advice, you may be able to find some useful information below:


Legal Choices Team 

H D Williams says:

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 17:42
Hello. I am hoping that someone on here can help me. My mother in law passed away in February. She had a small dog that my husband and I have been taking care of ever since she passed. We are very attached to the dog. Now my brother in law is saying that the dog was left to him in a Will. He has not done anything to help look after the baby. How can we stop him from taking the dog away from us. It is really going to break our hearts if we have to give him up. We love him like he was our child.

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:33

In reply to by H D Williams


It may be worth getting some legal advice at this stage:


Legal Choices Team 

Hayley Kenny says:

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 11:18
Can my dog go under my name when im 16 or do i have to be 18

Pavitri.Tailor… says:

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:35

In reply to by Hayley Kenny

Hi Hayley,

Please see previous comments on all relating articles for ownership.


Legal Choices Team


Stacey algie says:

Sun, 05/10/2020 - 20:58
I would like to know where I stand as I adopted a dog off a rescue last August 2019 it states in the adoption paperwork that after 6 months the rescue will sign her ie Microchip legally over to me well I have messaged them they have seen the message but no reply. This dog had have 1 ear canal removed before the we took her in and now has to have the other one done which I dont mind paying for but I've been told she should never have been adopted out with existing health issues she should have come to me on medical Foster I don't want to lose the dog

Legal Choices says:

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:37

In reply to by Stacey algie

Hi Stacey,

You may need to seek legal advice or speak to someone who specialises in this matter:


Legal Choices Team 

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