I bought a dog that was wrongly described. What are my legal rights?

What is the law that governs the sale of a dog?

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 wrongly described as being good with children the purchaser may have a claim against the seller for breach of contract and/or misrepresentation. However this will depend upon a number of things.

What was agreed?

An agreement for the sale of a dog will include both “express terms” (those terms which were specifically agreed between the parties) and “implied terms” (terms implied by conduct or the law).

In an agreement for the sale of a dog it will be an express term that the seller will sell to the buyer the dog and that the buyer will pay the seller an agreed amount for the dog. In many instances nothing more may have been said by the parties at the time when the agreement was made. However, the agreement will contain certain other terms implied by the law. Certain terms may, for example, be implied by the Sale of Goods Act 1979, as amended by the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 implies into a contract for the sale of goods certain terms relating to the quality of the goods being sold where such goods are sold in the course of a business. However, in the case of the sale of a dog because the purchase of an animal is an unknown quality a Court may be reluctant to imply terms as to the quality of the dog, unless a defect is known to the seller or is very obvious to the seller.

As a general rule the principle “caveat emptor” (“let the buyer beware”) applies to the sale of animals and, therefore, the buyer will ordinarily be responsible for checking the suitability of a dog before purchasing it.

Where a seller sells animals in the course of a business and if an animal is sold for a particular purpose and that purpose is made known to the seller before the agreement was made and the buyer relied on the skill and judgment of the seller, then it will be an implied term of the agreement that the animal was reasonably fit for that purpose. If, therefore, the buyer of a dog made it clear that the dog would be sharing a home with small children the seller may be liable if the dog has an aggressive temperament.

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For more information on:

  • What, if anything, did the seller say about the dog prior to the agreement being made?
  • How was the dog behaving when it was inspected prior to the agreement being made?
  • What are my rights where the seller is liable and what should I do?