Sick puppy warning for pet buyers

Consumer Protection is issuing a warning to pet buyers after a recent increase in reports of sick puppies; often infected with the potentially fatal parvovirus. Since the start of 2013 there have been 35 enquiries and 12 complaints.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll says problems with pet purchases can be tricky.

“Buying a pet is exciting but unlike other purchases it’s a living thing that will become part of your family and for that reason the last thing you want is problems when you get home.

“Emotional attachments may have been formed that make an exchange or refund out of the question, while a ‘repair’ can equal expensive vet bills and a dispute with the seller.”

Pet shops or businesses that sell animals must comply with the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ‘Consumer guarantee’ part of the ACL means that the “goods” must be fault-free (with a pet this can mean no defects or illnesses) and match the description given e.g. it is the breed advertised.

However the Commissioner says conciliating disputes between buyers and sellers can be hard.

“Resolving complaints can be an issue when the seller wants the customer to prove the puppy was sick at the time it left the pet shop. The seller may claim the puppy contracted the illness after it was sold. It can be difficult to substantiate either claim depending on the type of disease and incubation period.

“If you were told a dog has been vaccinated and health checked and you get it home to find it’s sick, or you bought a small breed of dog but it grows really quickly and you realise it’s a much bigger breed, these are the types of scenarios where you may be entitled to redress.

“Take the pet back to the seller at your earliest opportunity to give the business a chance to provide a remedy. Depending on the fault and whether it is a major or minor issue will largely determine the remedy you can insist upon or may wish to accept.

“If you’re in a dispute with a business that sells pets and cannot resolve it, come to Consumer Protection to see if we can help. Call 1300 30 40 54 or email”

The Commissioner advises consumer law may not apply to private sales between individuals.

“If you call a phone number on a noticeboard at your local shopping centre or make contact with a seller via a classifieds advert, be mindful you may not benefit from the same protections as when you buy from reputable businesses.

“Know that scammers often advertise puppies or kittens on sites such as Gumtree and then try to con money out of you for vet-fees and shipment of the animal to WA from the eastern states. Always try to shop locally where you can see the animal before you buy and consider adopting from a local animal rescue centre.”

Consumer Protection’s recommendations for pet-buyers:

  • research the type of animal you want, where they are on sale locally and what types of vaccinations they should have had;
  • see if friends or family have any recommendations for a pet-seller;
  • if you have chosen a seller do a Google search of their name to look for any online warnings;
  • check with recognised breeder Associations for advice and recommendations;
  • download our brochure:;
  • when buying the animal get certificates/written proof that vaccinations and vet examinations have occurred and obtain a receipt; and
  • be sceptical of pets offered in classified advertisements or online that are not from a recognised source or are below market cost.

The RSPCA also has a guide, available online at:


(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce)

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Media Contact:
Alina Cavanagh  9282 0679 or 0423-846397


Consumer Protection
Media release
18 Sep 2013

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