Over half the households in the UK own a pet. In addition to these conventional pets, some people keep unusual animals as pets. There are laws which regulate the keeping of pets and additional laws which apply to unusual pets.
In this section, find out what legal regulations are involved with keeping a pet. Below you will find a short summary of the topics covered in this section. To gain access to more information as well as any relevant documents, click on the links in the left-hand side of the page.
In law the term animals is used to refer to all animals except man. The law historically divides animals into two groups as follows:
- Domestic animals - this includes all those animals which are tame or are trained to live with people
- Wild animals - this includes not only the animals that are naturally wild, but also those which are more timid but cannot be tamed
Domestic animals can be owned like any other property. Domestic animals remain the property of the owner even when they have strayed or are lost. If anyone interferes with an owner's domestic animal, the owners are entitled to start proceedings against them. With these rights, come obligations and responsibilities, so, owners are responsible for the actions of their pets as well as being obliged to care for them.
In this section you can find out what your responsibilities and liabilities are in keeping domestic animals, buying or selling domestic animals, and what regulations exist regarding the breeding of domestic animals.
The sale of domestic animals is subject to the ordinary laws of contract. This means that the same laws which apply to the sale of any other goods apply here. For example, if the seller carries on a business of selling animals, and the buyer has made it clear that the animal is needed for a particular purpose, the law will imply a term in the contract stating that the animal is fit for that particular purpose. However, if the seller is a private individual, the fit for purpose term will not apply. Therefore a buyer who is buying from a private individual should ensure that the animal has been fully checked and that the seller confirms in writing that the animal does in fact possess the characteristics required. Some animals belonging to rare or endangered species and those that are destructive or dangerous may not be possessed without a licence.
In this section, you can find out which rules are involved in the sale of a dog, horse or cat.
Animals may be dangerous not only because of the diseases they can carry, but because of the harm they can cause whether because of physical strength or heightened aggression. The law attempts to protect the public from such animals by prohibiting the keeping of certain animals without a licence. In other cases the animals are banned altogether.
The main legislation regarding licensing is the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 or the Dangerous Wild Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 2004. Find out why this legislation was brought about, and restrictions and obligations it imposes on licence holders who keep animals which fall under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act and Order.
Dogs, cats and ferrets meeting the necessary requirements may move between EU countries if they are accompanied by an EU pet passport. All EU countries recognise this document. Certain non-EU listed countries may also issue a passport. Gibraltar, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland are doing so.
The passport is accepted for entry to the UK from other Member States and from other qualifying countries.
The UK Pet Passport Scheme involves a three stage process. First, the dog must be microchipped. Then the dog must be vaccinated against rabies. Finally, after the rabies vaccination, the dog must give a blood sample which is labelled as coming from the dog with the particular microchip. This is then tested by a laboratory recognised by Defra to prove that the vaccination has taken. If the vaccination has taken, then a UK Pet Passport (officially called The Pet Travel Scheme) can be issued. The documentary and testing needs of the whole process mean that no dog younger than six months can realistically have a pet passport.
Pet dogs, cats and ferrets entering the EU (including the UK) from non-EU countries require a(128 KB). This Certificate may only be used to enter the UK when completed and issued in a .
Dogs, cats and ferrets are able to enter the UK fromprovided they meet the relevant requirements.
There is no formal legal requirement to microchip pets in general for identification purposes. There are some specific examples of where microchipping is required, for instance, in the case of horses. Microchipping is otherwise largely voluntary.
UK vets will not microchip a dog which is under 3 months in age because the microchip is too likely to move from its injected location. However, it is recommended that all dogs are microchipped after this age.