Have you ever thought about what might happen if you bought a puppy that got sick or died soon after? What rights would you have? Here’s Ari Winfield from the RSPCA on why they think there needs to be a ‘Puppy Contract’.
Imagine you’ve just bought a new fridge freezer. You’ve spent about £1,500 – you wanted the top-of-the-range (with an icebox, and one of those salad crispers).
If your new fridge broke soon after you bought it, you’d expect you’d be entitled to get a full refund or replacement from the retailer, wouldn’t you? And you’d be right, as per your consumer rights.
Now, imagine you’re going to buy a puppy.* A beautiful, fluffy little Pomeranian. The puppy costs £1,500, but the breed lives for around 9+ years – so it’s just a one-off cost, and is really an investment into a new and very special family member.
You see an ad online for the puppy, who is being sold by a family nearby. You arrange to view her, and are delighted when the seller says you can take her away that very day. You separate with your cash, and bring her home.
Imagine that within a few days of purchasing your puppy, she falls seriously ill. Despite the vets trying their best to save her, your puppy dies. Now, save for the huge emotional trauma that this has cost you and your family, you are also struck financially; left with thousands of pounds of vets fees, and not to mention that initial purchase cost of £1,500.
Protection for buying puppies
Following a dreadful event like this, some buyers would demand that a breeder provide them with a replacement puppy. Some may want a refund, and may also ask for their vets bills to be covered.
Though, if – like the majority of puppy buyers – you buy from a private seller ie. someone who is not a “trader” of puppies, you do not have the benefit of consumer protection law. If you buy from a private seller, you have very little protection if the unimaginable happens. Unlike with your fridge freezer.
I’ve made this comparison, because sadly many puppies are being sold as if they’re nothing more than consumable products. Puppies are not ‘products’ though. Puppies are living, breathing, feeling animals, who deserve greater protection. As do the unsuspecting buyers – who don’t deserve the heartache if it all goes wrong.
And it does happen. At the RSPCA, we have seen a 122% increase in calls about sick and dying puppies over the past five years, as a result of unscrupulous criminal breeders and dealers. The owners of these puppies may never get their money back and nothing will cover the cost of their heartache.
The Puppy Contract
So how can you safeguard yourself? Quite simply, we propose you use the Puppy Contract. The Puppy Contract is a legally binding contract covering the sale and purchase of a puppy. It was drawn up by us at the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation, and has been endorsed by charities such as the Dogs Trust and the PDSA.
The contract covers the health and welfare issues you should ask a breeder about, as well as giving guidance about these issues – so you can understand their answers. These are the key things you should be looking out for when you visit your puppy – so that you can make an informed decision about the puppy you buy.
You can download the Puppy Contract, print it out, and sign it with your chosen puppy breeder. Any responsible and caring dog breeder or seller should be happy to complete this with you. And if they don’t know the answers, or are reluctant to provide the information, walk away. Always be buyer beware – it’s just not worth taking the risk.
Have you ever bought a puppy and experienced problems like those described in my scenario? Do you think new pet owners should have some protection?
*Scenario represents the thought process of a hypothetical puppy buyer, rather than a how the RSPCA would actually advise on buying a puppy.
This is a guest contribution by Ari at the RSPCA. All opinions are Ari’s own, not necessarily those of Which?