With Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe
Buying a pet is not like your average purchase. The product, which might be a puppy, dog, kitten, cat, horse or rabbit is likely to become a loved member of your family and with you for its whole life.
If you have a problem with the quality or there’s a defect, you’re unlikely to want to use potential consumer law rights to a replacement, or return the pet for a refund. So, you need to thoroughly research the breed, its parents and the seller before you buy. Also think very carefully about your commitment to provide a suitably-sized home, food and water, exercise and look after your pet’s health, including vet bills.
So far this year Consumer Protection has received 29 complaints from pet purchasers. Most (79%) were about puppies or dogs and the most common issue was misrepresentation – that might be when a dog was advertised as a medium-size breed that does not shed but grows to be very large and moults heavily.
Medical issues are common – a pre-purchase vet check can help avoid this. We also hear about a lack of documentation (be sure to get any papers and vaccination certificates) and scams where a popular breed is offered for a low price and a buyer pays in a non-secure way, such as direct bank transfer, then doesn’t receive the pet.
There are too many pre-purchase tips to list, so I’d urge you to head to our website www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au and check out our recently updated publication ‘A guide to consumer rights when buying a pet’. The RSPCA also has a detailed checklist at www.rspcawa.asn.au.
You have rights under the Australian Consumer Law if you buy from a shop, or registered breeder that’s a business. But these protections are unlikely to be available for private sales, via Gumtree or Facebook marketplace, or when you adopt from a shelter or rescue centre.