Pet peeves can be avoided
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 stay 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 consumer rights laws to replace the pet, or return it for a refund.
So you need to thoroughly research the breed, the animal’s parents and the seller before you buy.
Also think very carefully about your commitment to provide a suitably sized home, food, water and exercise and look after your pet’s health, including vet bills.
In 2019, Consumer Protection received 29 complaints from pet buyers.
Most 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.
There have also been scams in which 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, 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 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.
If you’re unsure about whether you have redress options, come to Consumer Protection, call 1300 30 40 54, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Chapman is the senior regional officer for Consumer Protection in the Kimberley.
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