What is the law relating to the sale of dogs?

The law relating to commercial sellers

The Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999

Where a person carries on at any premises, including a private dwelling, a business of breeding dogs for sale he is regarded, for the purposes of the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, as being the keeper of a breeding establishment for dogs and is required to obtain from his local authority a licence.

In certain circumstances a person will, under the Acts, be deemed to keep a breeding establishment for dogs and in such circumstances the onus, where the breeder seeks to show that he falls outside of the Act, will be on him to show that none of the puppies were sold within the 12 month period. The keeping of a breeding establishment for dogs without a licence can result in stiff penalties, including the imprisonment of the breeder.

Offences relating to the sale of dogs by licensed breeders

A number of criminal offences relating to the sale of dogs by licensed breeders were created by the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999. These are as follows:

  • It is a criminal offence for a person to sell a dog at a place other than the licensed breeding establishment, a licensed pet shop or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment.
  • It is a criminal offence to sell a dog to some one where the seller knows or believes that the purchaser intends to sell on the dog and the purchaser is not the keeper of a licensed pet shop or licensed Scottish rearing establishment.
  • It is a criminal offence to sell a dog which is less than 8 weeks old to someone who is not the keeper of a licensed pet shop or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment.
  • It is a criminal offence to sell to the keeper of a licensed pet shop or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment a dog which was not born at the licensed breeding establishment or a dog which, when delivered, is not wearing a collar with an identifying tag or badge which clearly displays the licensed breeding establishment at which it was born.

Are there any Defences to these offences?

The licence holder will have a Defence to any of these offences if he can show that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing the offence.

What are the penalties where one of these offences is committed?

The penalty for failing to comply with any of these offences is imprisonment and/or a fine. The Court can, on conviction, also order the cancellation of any licence held, disqualify the person from keeping an establishment for the breeding of dogs and/or from having custody of any dog, for such period as the Court thinks fit.

The Court can also order delivery up of a dog in the custody of a third party and order that the offender pay for that dog’s care until permanent arrangements are made for its care or disposal. Failure to comply with one of these 2 types of order is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Where an order for delivery up is made against a third party that third party will be given the opportunity to make representations to the Court, and if an order is made, they have the right to appeal against the order.

The Pet Animals Act 1951

Where a person carries on at any premises, including a private dwelling, a business of selling animals as pets, and the keeping of animals in any such premises with a view to their being sold in the course of such a business, whether by the keeper or any other person, under the Pet Animals Act 1951, the person is regarded as being the keeper of a pet shop and is required to obtain from his local authority a licence.

Exceptions apply where a person only keeps or sells pedigree animals bred by him or the offspring of his pets. In addition a local authority may direct that a particular breeder, who merely sells as pets animals which he acquired for show or breeding purposes but were found not to be suitable or needed for such purposes, is not deemed to keep a pet shop.

The keeping of a pet shop without a licence can result in stiff penalties, including the imprisonment of the keeper.

It is a criminal offence, under the Pet Animals Act 1951, for any person who carries on a business of selling animals as pets to sell the pet animals in a street, public place or at a market.

The law relating to all sellers

The Animal Welfare Act 2006

It is a criminal offence, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, to sell an animal to a person whom the seller has reasonable cause to believe to be under the age of 16 years. For the purpose of the Act selling includes transferring, or agreeing to transfer, ownership of the animal in consideration of entry by the transferee into another transaction.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 created a number of other offences relating to the general welfare of animals and the prevention of harm to animals which will be relevant to both the seller and the buyer of a dog.

Contractual considerations

A dog may be a domestic animal, however, in most senses the law treats the sale of a dog in the same way as it treats the sale of goods. Where a dog is sold a contract is created and, therefore, the general law relating to contracts will apply, as will the Sale of Goods Act 1979. In some circumstances a purchaser may have a claim against the seller for breach of contract and/or misrepresentation. However this will depend upon a number of things and specific advice should be sought where necessary.