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Buying a pet

This advice applies to Scotland

Pets can be great to have around the home. They can provide companionship, fun and comfort. However, 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.

This page tells you what to think about when buying a pet.

Top Tips

If the pet you buy becomes ill

If your pet becomes ill or dies soon after you bought it you may be entitled to a refund or replacement from the trader.

Pet becomes ill or dies after buying it

What to think about

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

  • you can afford it. The main costs will be food and vets fees
  • you're able to look after it appropriately. 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 years old to buy a pet.

What to ask when you buy

When you buy a pet, you should always ask the seller questions to make sure you are happy with the animal and that it is 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, if you have them?
  • 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 may also be emotionally distressing.

If your pet becomes ill or dies soon after you bought it, you might be entitled to a refund or replacement from the trader.

Where to buy

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

An individual

If you buy a pet from a private seller there may be certain risks and your legal consumer rights are more limited. You may see an advert in a newspaper or in a local shop. If you buy from a private seller, you need to ask the right questions as your legal right depends on what information the seller tells 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, during any 12 month period, five or more litters of puppies are born. In some parts of Scotland, you may need a licence to breed fewer than five litters in a 12 month peiod. You can check the rules in your area with your local authority.

Find out more about dog breeding and licences at

Pet shops

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

Animals in pet shops should be kept in accommodation that is suitable and clean and provided with appropriate food and drink.

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

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, phone directory, or search online for your local animal rescue centres. The SSPCA is a national animal rescue charity with centres all across Scotland.

Importing a pet

You will probably need a licence to import an animal or bird from another country. When it arrives it will have to go into quarantine for about 6 months at your expense, unless it is a cat, dog or ferret that is travelling under the PETS scheme. Animals travelling under the PETS scheme may not have to go into quarantine. You can find out more about Bringing your pet dog, cat or ferret to the UK on the GOV.UK website at

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

Kingseat Road
KY11 8RY
Helpline: 0300 099 9999
Fax: 01383 841049

Keeping wild animals

You need a licence to keep certain animals that are considered to be wild or dangerous. If you are intending to get a wild animal, or a hybrid, find out from your local council if you need a licence and how to apply. More information, including a full list of the animals that you need a licence for, can be found at on the Scottish Government website at

Next steps

Other useful information

Advice on choosing the right pet can be found on the Blue Cross website at

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