Buying a Pet

A pet is a lifetime commitment.

Never buy a pet on impulse. To help you make the right choice, think “PETS”- this stands for Place, Exercise, Time and Spend:

  • Place – How suitable for a pet is the place where you live?

Do you have a garden, or live near a local park? These are important considerations when thinking about getting a pet like a dog, which will need space to run around and play.

  • Exercise – How much exercise could you give your pet?

You may be looking forward to long walks with your new pet, in which case a dog might be suitable. If you’re not very active, a smaller pet may be a better choice.

  • Time – How much time could you spend with your pet?

Owners need to invest the right amount of time in their pet, in terms of both exercise and companionship. Daily exercise, training, play time, visits to the vet, grooming, cleaning their home out – these things all take time, and need to be thought about before deciding which pet to get.

  • Spend – Could you afford the lifetime expense of your preferred pet?

Owning a pet is a significant financial commitment. Food, bedding, vaccinations, and flea and worm treatments all need to be budgeted for. Owners also need to consider taking out pet insurance. The lifetime costs of a pet vary but as an example, a medium sized dog can cost around £20,000. A cat typically costs around £17,000 during its lifetime.

All pets need five things to be healthy and happy; these are called the five welfare needs. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, all owners need to provide these five things for the pets they keep:

1. Environment – a suitable living environment

2. Diet – a suitable diet

3. Behaviour – to be able to behave normally

4. Companionship – to have appropriate companionship

5. Health – to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

If you do decide to buy a pet, PAAG recommends the following:

  • Consider contacting your local animal rescue or rehoming centre. There are thousands of healthy, loving animals of all ages throughout the UK who need a home
  • Be sure you are knowledgeable about the pet you are interested in. Your local veterinary practice can provide advice on all aspects of a pet’s health and welfare, or direct you to a reputable source. Be prepared to wait, the right pet is worth waiting for
  • In the case of puppies and kittens, insist on seeing the mother with the litter and judge the parents’ health and temperament. Check that the animal you are interested in is interacting with the mother. You should have easy access to the litter and be able to play with them and handle them freely
  • For puppies and dogs, download the AWF/RSPCA Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack ( These are free to download and will help you avoid the problems that can arise from buying a puppy from an irresponsible breeder
  • Where appropriate make sure your chosen pet is old enough to leave its mother
  • Check that the facilities are clean, have adequate and appropriate bedding, toys and stimulation and that the animals appear alert and healthy
  • Visit your chosen pet regularly between the time of choosing and collection
  • Try to ensure that all relevant paperwork is available for inspection when you visit. This could include the pedigree and registration papers and the parents’ hereditary disease screening certificates. If it is unavailable and the paperwork has to be sent on later, get a written commitment to when it will be delivered
  • Ask the advertiser for a written medical history of the animal which might include veterinary treatments such as vaccinations, neutering, microchipping and worming
  • Request a written agreement that purchase is subject to a satisfactory examination by your veterinary surgeon within 72 hours of purchase. Alternatively make enquiries with your local veterinary practices to see if a veterinary surgeon would be willing to attend a viewing to check the pet for any visible health problems before you purchase it.
  • If your chosen pet was not born at the place of purchase ask where it came from. If you encounter any problems please contact the publisher of the advertisement
  • You must be 16 or over to buy or be responsible for a pet