When you have made the decision to buy a new puppy, it is really important to do plenty of research into every aspect of the purchase, which means learning as much as you can about the breed that you will be buying, and also, critically reviewing the litter that you are thinking of buying from as well!
As is the case when buying anything that is either financially costly or emotionally loaded-or both, when it comes to a puppy-the onus is on you as the buyer to ensure that what you are buying is being represented honestly, and that you are getting what you think you are getting, and that the person selling it to you is genuine and honest as well. This is why it is so important not to rush into a purchase and to ensure that you take every possible opportunity to check the veracity of anything that you are told about the puppy or the litter itself.
However, puppies and dogs in general are classed as property or “goods” in the UK, which means that they are covered by the same consumer protection laws as anything else, and so if you find yourself to have bought a puppy that was not as described or that was sick when you bought it, you may have some comeback in law. If you do find that the puppy you have bought it unwell, the protection that consumer law affords to you and what you can do to seek restitution is somewhat limited, and can be complicated, and so, the onus is still on you as the buyer to protect yourself as far as possible before the sale.
That being said, if you find yourself to have purchased an ill or otherwise unhealthy puppy, this guide will provide you with some basic advice regarding where you stand in law, how you can get your expenses back, and how you should proceed-and why. Read on to learn more about what to do if you have bought a sick puppy.
When you first buy your new puppy, you should take care to check it over thoroughly for any signs of ill health or other problems before you commit to take it home. It is also strongly advised to get the puppy checked over by your own vet within 48 hours of taking the puppy home, both so that any problems in the making can be identified quickly, and so that you can act within a reasonable window of time for the return of goods given in law.
You should also check the contract of sale over carefully to ensure that there are no get-out clauses or caveats slipped in regarding the seller’s liability to you as the buyer when it comes to the puppy’s health.
Regardless of how long after the sale you notice that your new puppy is ill or otherwise unhealthy during their first year of life, you should in the first instance seek veterinary advice, both in order to treat or help the puppy, and also, so that you will have a firm basis and expert advice to rely upon when it comes to discussing the issue with the initial seller.
Assessing the limit of a breeder or seller’s responsibility when it comes to guaranteeing the health of a puppy can be challenging, and there is no firm distinction or definition given for this in law.
In some cases, illness shortly after sale will be obvious, and if the puppy falls ill or is found to be ill within say, the first week of their time with you, the seller will almost certainly have some liability to you, unless they told you about this first.
However, the seller would not be classed as liable if the puppy became ill with a condition that was not pre-existing (i.e., one that they caught or developed, such as the flu) indefinitely after the sale, and of course, you must accept as the owner of the puppy that they may become sick at some point in their lives, and no one can foresee or be held liable for this!
In terms of hereditary health problems, issues that are present from birth may not become apparent until the puppy is older, and whether or not the seller has any responsibility to you for these will vary. If the seller made any form of declaration that the puppy they sold was certified or tested as clear of the condition in question, they might well do, however, if no such assertion was made and more than a few weeks have passed since the sale, this is a much larger grey area, and potentially, not one that you will have any recourse over.
So you’ve found your puppy to be sick with something shortly after you bought them, or that they are suffering from a hereditary health condition or other problem that you feel the seller may be responsible to you for. What next?
Before you contact the seller, get all of the paperwork pertaining to the purchase of the puppy in front of you, and read every page of every document carefully. What you are looking for will be any paragraphs, guarantees or statements made by the seller about the health of the puppy, any stated period for returning the puppy if they are unwell, and any other implied or outright statements regarding the puppy’s health, wellness and general condition.
Added to this, you should also check things over very carefully to ensure that there is no clause or caveat in the paperwork that might go the other way-such as “sold as seen’” or “no guarantees implied or given” or anything else that essentially negates the responsibilities of the seller when it comes to selling a healthy dog.
If any such statement is made within the paperwork that you have been given, it is highly likely that it will be very difficult or even impossible for you to get any financial restitution for the puppy that your bought, but once more, it is worth taking specialist legal advice if this is the case, in order to ensure that these comments or statements are legally binding.
Finally, you will need to double-check whether the seller sold the puppy to you as a private individual or as business, as this will affect how much protection the law provides for you too. A business seller’s contact details and business registration number should be displayed somewhere within the paperwork you were supplied.
Whether or not the seller of the puppy has any liability to you in law for the pup’s health will depend on a variety of factors. It is a good idea to know where you stand from the get-go, but also, if you have little to no recourse in law, this does not mean that you should not attempt to resolve the matter with the seller anyway, and also, report them to the appropriate organisations if you are unable to do this.
If you bought your puppy from a professional seller who is registered as a business, you have greater protection in law than if you purchased by means of a private sale.
Purchasing from a business gives you some additional guarantees in law about the “goods” that you paid for being fit for purpose, which are missing from private sales. If your puppy was bought from a registered business, it is generally assumed or implied that the pup will be healthy, and you can take action if they are not.
However, if you bought the dog privately from a non-business seller, you will only have comeback regarding the pup’s health if they stated that the pup was healthy or described it as healthy; otherwise, there is apt to be little that you can do to recoup your loss.
For unscrupulous dog breeders and sellers, there are a lot of benefits to flying under the radar when it comes to registering their endeavours as a business. Not only will they be able to avoid taxation and other business costs, but they will also be able to bypass being licenced and registered with the local council, who issue licences for breeders and businesses that sell pets.
Also, and perhaps most importantly for you, buying from a private seller as opposed to a business gives the buyer much less protection in law, as outlined above.
People breeding or selling a large number of animals need to be registered to do so under what is known as a Pet Shop Licence (the premises itself need not be a business, it can be a private home) and more information on this can be found here.
Ergo, if you suspect that the person who sold you your puppy is not really a private seller, but in fact, part of a bigger enterprise or acting as a middleman for a large-scale breeder, you should report your concerns again the local council, Trading Standards, and also, the RSPCA.
If you know or suspect that you inadvertently bought your puppy from a puppy farm or middle man for a puppy farm, you should go through all of the other procedures mentioned later on in this guide for reporting them to the relevant authorities, and also, consider contacting The CARIAD Campaign, who collate such information and act on it where possible.
By now, you should have ascertained that your puppy is unwell, had them seen by the vet to get treatment and a diagnosis, and have read your contract of sale and all of the other paperwork carefully so that you will have a better idea of how you are likely to get on with the seller, or if you might need to seek legal advice.
Your next step should be to contact the seller in order to attempt to resolve the matter with them amicably before going down the route of taking legal recourse, but before you can do this, you must first have a clear idea of what you expect the seller of the puppy to do, and this is something that you will need to consider carefully.
Do you want them to take the puppy back and return the purchase price and also, pay any out-of-pocket expenses, such as your vet’s fees? Do you want to keep the puppy and recoup your vet’s fees? If the puppy has died, how do you expect them to resolve this? Do you just want the purchase price of the puppy and any vet’s fees back, or something more?
These are all things that you should decide before you make first contact with the seller to discuss the issue.
If you bought your puppy from a professional, responsible seller who breeds their dogs with the best interests of the dogs in mind, the seller will probably be just as anxious and worried as you are to learn that a puppy that they sold is sick or otherwise unhealthy, and they will want to work with you to resolve matters amicably, and with the best interests of the puppy in mind.
If you can manage this then that is excellent, and the matter will likely end there for you-however, ensure that you petition for restitution or assistance in writing and keep a record of anything the seller admits or agrees to, just in case of later issues.
If the seller is non-cooperative, denies any liability or otherwise will not work with you to find a suitable resolution, this is where things can get complicated.
If this does happen to you, the process of recouping your losses and taking action in the best interests of your puppy can be both complex and time consuming, and once more, professional legal advice is strongly recommended to do this.
However, if you intend to handle matters yourself and also, want to ensure that the seller of the puppy is called to account for their actions, there are several things that you should do, and organisations that you should get into contact with, as listed below.
Firstly, if you bought the puppy after finding them advertised here on Pets4Homes and the pup is sick and the seller uncooperative, we want to hear about it. We pride ourselves on being a responsible pet classifieds site, and spend a significant amount of effort rooting out unscrupulous sellers and poor breeding practices among advertisers.
Please report such sellers to us, and we will suspend or cancel their advertisement privileges and ask them to work with you to resolve the matter. If you purchased your pup as a result of seeing an advertisement elsewhere, do the same-report them to the company or website in question.
If you suspect that the seller of your puppy is involved in unscrupulous breeding practices that are either detrimental to the health of the puppies or otherwise not in the best interests of the animals-including knowingly selling sick or unhealthy puppies-the RSPCA will want to know about this as well.
The RSPCA is the only animal charity in the UK to proactively pursue prosecutions against persons committing cruelty to animals, and so if you have concerns about the welfare of a breeder’s dogs or suspect that they are not what they seem, call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
This might seem like an odd piece of advice, but it makes good sense! All professional puppy breeders, or those that breed more than a couple of litters per year, must be registered with their local council, who will issue them with a licence for their premises and breeding endeavours.
If you have found that the seller’s breeding and sales practice is unscrupulous or detrimental to the health of the puppies, the licencing council should know about this, as they will be able to review the terms of their licencing.
If the seller is not registered with the local council as a dog breeder, this is, if anything, even more of a reason for reporting them, as they may well be breeding illegally.
While you may not find out what action, if any, the council takes, without this sort of information, councils are powerless to act against unscrupulous breeders. You can find out the local council by postcode for all areas of the UK here: https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council
Puppies are considered to be “goods” in law, and so, are covered by the Sale of Goods Act. This means that certain implied basic assumptions are made about said “goods” as part of a sale, and generally, these assumptions include good health as far as is foreseeable. This means that purchases made from businesses or commercial sellers are protected in law under Trading Standards regulations, and so your local Trading Standards office will be able to investigate such sales.
However, the powers and remit of Trading Standards protection is much lower if you purchased your puppy privately from a hobbyist breeder or one who is not registered as such, and so Trading Standards may not be able to help you in this instance. That being said, if you feel that the person you bought the puppy from was trading as a business, even if they were not registered as such, Trading Standards will want to know. You can find your local Trading Standards office here: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-trading-standards-office
The Citizens Advice Bureau is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping consumers understand their rights, and how to exercise them in law. If you feel that you need some expert advice or you are not sure how to proceed when you find yourself to have purchased a sick puppy and you believe that you do have some comeback, make an appointment with your local office.
You can find your local CAB office here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-we-provide-advice/advice/
And also check out their advice on your rights if a pet becomes ill or dies after you buy it here.
If the dog or puppy that you bought is a pedigree that is registered with The Kennel Club, it is also important to report the issue to them, if the seller will not cooperate with you over the problem. The Kennel Club will launch their own investigation into the seller’s business practices, and also, review the seller’s membership of the Assured Breeder Scheme, if relevant.
You can find out how to do this by checking out this advice from The Kennel Club: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/breeding/assured-breeder-scheme/policing-the-scheme/
And also, check out if a breeder is a member of the Assured Breeder Scheme here.
Whether or not the puppy was registered with The Kennel Club, if they are a pedigree, they may be registered with a breed-specific organisation instead as or as well as The Kennel Club.
Breed organisations work closely with The Kennel Club to draw up and maintain breed standards and police breeding practices that may be detrimental to the health of their dogs, and they often also keep a database of all breeders of the breed in question within the UK.
If you are not already aware of the name of the specific breed organisation that will cover the type of dog you own, you should be able to find it by looking online.
If you are confident that the seller of the puppy is responsible to you in law for the pup’s health and associated expenses but they will not work with you to resolve the problem, you may need to look at taking them to court to recoup your costs.
Taking the seller to court in this way is a civil matter, not a criminal one, and so will be handled through the small claims courts. While you should be prepared to go to court if needs be, it is also worth bearing in mind that this is not always necessary; being called to court may be enough to encourage the seller to work with you before it gets that far, and before the case will go before a judge, you will be required to participate in mediation with the seller too.
To find out more about how to make a claim through the courts, how much this costs, and to start the process online, check out this link: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview Bear in mind also, that assuming that the case is found in your favour, the other party will be required to cover your own legal costs too.