Need help? Call 0345 838 4074 Register Login

Dogs and puppies

The law on buying a dog

When you buy a dog or a puppy, it must be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for its purpose;
  • as described.

In addition, any person buying a dog or a puppy has the right of an implied guarantee that the seller can sell the dog or puppy. This means that, although this guarantee may not be in writing, the seller still promises that nobody else has any right to prevent the sale.

You can find out more about your rights in the section Introduction to your legal rights.

In England and Scotland, the following people must be licensed:

  • Anyone who sells animals as pets in the course of a business
  • Anyone who keeps animals in the course of a business for later sale as pets
  • Dog breeders who breed 3 or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period.

It is illegal for a licence holder to sell a puppy as a pet or to permanently separate it from its biological mother, if it's under 8 weeks old. A puppy under 6 months may only be sold by its breeder, who must be the person named on the licence. It may only be shown to a prospective buyer in the presence of its biological mother (unless she has died).

A dog or puppy may only be sold from the licensed premises and, in the case of breeders, from the licensed premises where it was born and reared. The sale of the dog or puppy may only be concluded if the buyer is personally present at the licensed premises. This means that it would be illegal to sell or buy a dog or puppy at a public place or market, unless that forms part of the licensed premises.

All puppies must be microchipped and registered to the license holder before they are sold.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, the law requires breeders to retain ownership and possession of the puppy on the premises where it was bred until the puppy is at least 8 weeks. Any sale before then is illegal.

Identification of dogs and puppies

Owners must make sure their dog wears a collar with an identification tag that includes the owners' name, address and telephone number as required by the Control of Dogs Order 1992 and, in Northern Ireland, the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983.

Most dogs in the UK are legally required to be microchipped at 8 weeks (or older if not yet microchipped). It is also a legal requirement that when a microchipped dog is sold, the new owner's details must be recorded on the microchip. More information is on GOV.UK.

Dangerous dogs

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 make it a criminal offence to own, sell, gift or breed certain types of dogs that are considered to be dangerous (unless they're registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs). The following kinds of dog have been outlawed:

  • pit bull terrier
  • Japanese tosa
  • dogo Argentino
  • fila Brasileiro

In the UK, dangerous dogs are classified by type, not by breed. This means that whether a dog is banned depends on its physical characteristics and whether they match the description of a banned type of dog. The courts are responsible for assessing the physical characteristics of the dog and can decide whether the dog should either be destroyed or placed in the Index of Exempted Dogs.

It's also an offence to be the owner of any dog that is dangerously out of control in a public place or in a private place where the dog isn't allowed to be (e.g. a neighbour's house or garden). This rule applies to all dogs, not just dangerous ones.

Caring for dogs

Before buying a dog or puppy as a pet, you must keep in mind that you're taking on a long-term responsibility. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 in England and Wales, Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 set out the legal duties of the owner of a dog or puppy.

Under this legislation, the owner has legal obligations to:

  • provide it with a suitable environment and diet;
  • enable it to exhibit normal behavioural patterns;
  • give it the appropriate level of companionship (including whether it needs to live with or apart from other animals); and
  • protect it from pain, suffering injury and disease.

Codes of practice have been published in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all aimed at helping you comply with your legal duties of care. Although non-compliance with the codes is not an offence in itself, they are taken into account when deciding if you've broken the law.

Most sellers therefore want to emphasise the need to care for the animal. To address this, the seller often puts a term in the contract of sale that asks the buyer to promise that they'll look after the animal. Unfortunately, this kind of term is very difficult to enforce and means very little in practice.

If you suspect that a dog or puppy is being mistreated, contact the following organisations:

What is the law guide

The Desktop Lawyer law guide aims to present the law to you in a comprehensive yet jargon-free and easy-to-read format. Our law guide is constantly kept up to date with changes in business and family law by our team of in house solicitors, and includes information across all the legal jurisdictions in the UK.

Our law guide is free to use. Where we provide documents related to this area of law, or where they may help you with any legal issue in this area, they will be listed to the right of this message.

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We would also like to set some optional cookies. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Please choose whether this site may use optional cookies by selecting 'On' or 'Off' for each category below. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookie notice.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Performance cookies

We'd like to set cookies to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. For more information on these cookies, please see our Cookie notice. The cookies collect information in an anonymous form. Data is only used in aggregate.

Functionality cookies

We'd like to set cookies to provide you with a better customer experience. For more information on these cookies, please see our Cookie notice.