Buying a pet

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

Pets can be great to have around the home. They can provide companionship, fun and comfort. But owning a pet can be a big responsibility. They need to be cared for properly.

Before you buy, there are things you need to think about, such as whether you have suitable accommodation or what you'll do with the pet when you're away.

What to think about

Owning a pet is a big responsibility. Think about if:

  • you can afford it - the main costs will be food and vets' fees

  • you can look after it - some pets need more hands-on care than others. For example, dogs should be walked at least twice a day.

You must be over 16 to buy a pet. Read more about looking after a pet.

What to ask when you buy

When you buy a pet, you should always ask the seller questions to make sure you're happy with the animal and that it's healthy. For example:

  • does it have any health problems

  • how old is the animal

  • what kind of temperament does it have – you might want to avoid an animal that can be aggressive

  • is the animal good with children

  • what kind of care and food does it need?

If the animal has significant health problems, think before you buy it. Having a sick animal can cost a lot of money in vets' fees and could be emotionally distressing.

If you're thinking of buying a puppy, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) has a useful guide to buying a puppy safely

If your pet becomes ill or dies soon after you bought it, you might be entitled to a refund or replacement from the trader. Read more about what to do if your pet becomes ill or dies after you buy it.

Where to buy

Never buy pets sold in the street, including on barrows and markets. It's illegal to sell pets in this way.

A private seller

If you buy a pet from a private seller, there might be risks and your legal consumer rights are more limited. You might see an advert in a newspaper or a local shop.

If you buy from a private seller, you need to ask the right questions, because your legal rights depend on what information the seller gives you about the animal. You must ask about the animal’s health.

If you buy a dog or puppy, the seller will need a licence to breed dogs if five or more litters of puppies are born in any 12-month period. In some parts of Scotland, you might need a licence to breed fewer than five litters in a 12-month period. You can check the rules in your area with your local council. Find your local council on

Find out more about dog breeding and licences on GOV.UK.

Pet shops

Check that the pet shop has a licence from the local council before you buy.

Animals in pet shops should be kept in suitable and clean accommodation and given appropriate food and drink.

If you think conditions in a pet shop are poor, report the shop to your local council. Find your local council on

Charitable rescue centres

There are many animal rescue centres that provide adoption services for abandoned or mistreated pets that are rescued. Look in your yellow pages or phone directory, or search online for local animal rescue centres.

Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)

The SSPCA is a national animal rescue charity with centres all across Scotland. Its contact details are:

Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)

Kingseat Road



KY11 8RY

Animal helpline: 0300 099 9999

Website: contact form


Importing a pet

You'll probably need a licence to import an animal or bird from another country. When it arrives, it might have to go into quarantine.

Read more about importing pets on the Scottish government website.

Keeping wild animals

You need a licence to keep certain animals that are considered to be wild or dangerous. If you're intending to get a wild animal or a hybrid, find out from your local council if you need a licence and how to apply.

You can find more information, including a full list of the animals you need a licence for, on the Scottish government website.

More information

Find out more about looking after pets

You can get advice on choosing the right pet on the Blue Cross website