Puppy Advice

How to buy a puppy safely

The trade in puppies has become a lucrative business, which has seen many people ripped off by puppy scammers. Here’s how to buy a puppy safely.

Four young puppies rest in soft blue bed on outside decking

Common scams when buying a puppy

Rogue puppy traders rely on the ‘cute’ appeal of puppies to lure their buyers. They know how hard it is to resist a puppy and will do whatever it takes to get you to part with your money. Here’s some of the tricks that rogue traders and puppy scammers may use: 

  • You may be told that there is only one puppy left to try to persuade you to pay a deposit.
  • You may be given an excuse about why you can’t see the puppy’s mother.
  • The seller may offer to meet you somewhere, such as a motorway service station, to hand over the puppy.
  • The seller may offer to deliver the puppy to you, but the puppy never arrives.

Watch this short UK government film on how to buy a pet safely and avoid being ‘petfished’. 

Warning signs when buying a puppy

You should not buy a puppy from a seller if: 

  • You can’t see the puppy with its mother in the place where it was born.
  • The puppy has a pet passport. This would suggest that the puppy has been bred outside of the UK and possibly on a puppy farm.
  • The puppy appears unwell or lethargic.
  • You have a gut feeling that something just isn’t right.

Look for a puppy that has clear, bright eyes and clean ears that don’t smell. They should have clean teeth and pink gums, soft shiny fur, a clean bottom and no sign of fleas. Avoid puppies with pot-bellies. This is a sign that they have worms. Your perfect puppy will be confident and interested in you and what’s going on around them, not shy and anxious. 

How to protect yourself

There are a number of ways to protect yourself and buy a puppy safely: 

  • Arrange to visit a litter of puppies when they are 4-6 weeks old, rather than ready to go. This will stop a puppy seller from trying to persuade you to buy a puppy from them there and then. It will also give you lots of time to properly meet the puppies, get a sense of how they interact with you, the breeder, their mother and siblings, and ask lots of questions before you decide to buy.  
  • Only pay for a puppy once you have seen it with its mother in the place where it was born. If you are asked to put down a deposit, make sure it is refundable. Don’t pay by phone or use Paypal or Western Union. 
  • Use the Puppy Contract when buying a puppy. It is a legally binding contract between you and the seller.

Read this helpful guide by Which? It explains your consumer rights when buying a pet

Your legal rights when buying a puppy

Your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 when buying a puppy depend on: 

  • Where you bought the puppy from
  • How you paid for your puppy
  • What information the seller provided about your puppy
  • What record you have regarding the purchase of your puppy

This is the same law that covers purchases for household items such as a fridge or a television. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to determine if a puppy is of ‘satisfactory quality’ and’ fit for purpose’ as it is a fridge or a television. This is why many puppy buyers find themselves out of pocket and, sadly, in many cases with a sick or dead puppy. 

You can protect yourself by always seeing a puppy with its mother in the place where it was born. Only pay money for a puppy in person and once you have seen the puppy, and use the Puppy Contract

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