The UK is renowned to be a nation of animal lovers, and understandably, the breeding, buying and selling of many types of pets within the UK is big business. From small private breeders to large commercial pet shops and pet classifieds websites, there are many different ways to buy and sell animals, and almost as many different ways to complete the transaction as there are animals available! While the vast majority of sales go through without any problems and the vast majority of breeders, sellers and buyers are genuine, nevertheless there are various unscrupulous people out there seeking to make a quick buck from the unsuspecting animal lover, or to part the naive would-be buyer from their cash, leaving them with nothing to show for it. Whether you are considering buying an expensive horse, pedigree dog or just a rabbit or hamster, it is important to keep your wits about you and be on the lookout for any warning signs that something is amiss, from the initial viewing right through until you eventually take your new pet home. With this in mind, check out our top tips on the best ways to protect yourself and your money when buying a new pet, plus a quick insight into some common scams that you may come across when looking to buy an animal.
1. Check out our previous articles on pitfalls to avoid when buying a pedigree puppy, plus what kind of formal documentation you should receive when buying a dog. These articles can prove informative for all prospective pet owners, not just those looking to buy a dog or puppy!
2. Never buy an animal that you haven’t seen in the flesh. The vast majority of scams relating to buying a pet or anything else over the internet involve various different methods of trying to part the potential buyer from their money without ever handing over the pet supposedly offered for sale. There are various seemingly credible reasons that dodgy sellers will use to try and part a buyer from their money. These are becoming increasingly complicated and devious, and can appear very genuine. Be on the lookout for the owner claiming to be out of the country, or having to sell a high value pet quickly and so accepting an amount well under the market rate if you pay or place a deposit on it immediately before viewing it. Also, never fall for the claims of a seller who is asking for online payment to secure an unborn puppy or young puppy from a litter prior to viewing the litter or dam.
3. Even if you get as far as viewing an animal for sale and so, establish that the animal exists and is as described, how can you be sure that the person selling it is the genuine owner? Ask to see I.D. from the seller, even if you visit them in their own home. It should go without saying that you should never agree to meet a potential seller and their animal in a pub, park or other public place!
4. Make sure that any transactions such as paying a deposit or the full purchase price for an animal are done face to face, regardless of whether you pay by cheque, cash or bank transfer. Never use services such as Paypal or Western Union money transfer to make a payment for a pet. One of the most popular scams when buying a pet is that an advertiser will ask you to pay a deposit online before seeing the puppy or other pet. You should never send money online (even just small deposit) to anyone you do not know. Even if you send money via bank transfer, the majority of banks will be unable to return the money to you, or be able to trace where that money has gone.
5. Ensure that you always get receipts for any monies paid, as well as any accompanying paperwork such as a statement that you have paid a deposit to secure your future pet and that pending full payment, the animal belongs to you and will not be sold to someone else in the interim. Also, if paying a deposit, make sure that it is clearly established under what circumstances the deposit should be returned to you if the purchase does not go ahead. Many pet sellers will not offer a refund of your deposit if you change your mind, or cannot go through with the sale.
6. Make sure that you get all the appropriate paperwork and documentation when paying for the pet and before taking it home, for example Microchip documentation, KC documentation (if buying a KC reg dog or puppy), vaccination records etc.... Many unscrupulous sellers will make excuses as to why they don't have the documentation to hand and will offer to post this documentation to you after the sale. It is illegal to sell an unmicrochipped dog in the UK, so they should be able to provide evidence of this.
7. Remember that the most important tool you have in avoiding scams and pitfalls when buying a pet is your own instinct. If something feels wrong, it probably is! Even if you cannot put your finger on the source of the alarm bells that are ringing in your head, walk away and buy from a different seller, shop or breeder. Unscrupulous people will go to quite some lengths to try to con unsuspecting people out of their money, and you may not always be able to identify what the endgame or the catch is when something feels amiss.