Online pet sales face legal crackdown

An adult pit bull. Picture: PA/RSPCA
An adult pit bull. Picture: PA/RSPCA
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NEW LAWS could be introduced to crack down on the sale of pets over the internet, amid concerns that sick and illegal animals are being sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Hundreds of cases have been documented of puppies and kittens being sold online that turned out to be underage, sick or not properly socialised. There have also been cases of illegal dog breeds, such as pit bull terriers, being advertised through the internet.

It is feared that many unscrupulous breeders take advantage of the Christmas season to make money, and potential owners do not receive the same animals advertised – if indeed they are sent anything at all.

The Scottish Government says it is now considering new legislation to deal with the issue.

The sale of pets is currently governed by the Pet Animals Act 1951, which requires anyone keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local authority. But this only covers pet shops, leaving internet sales unregulated at present.

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead has indicated that a change in the law could be on the cards in response to a parliamentary question from the Greens.

He said: “We are currently discussing the unregulated sale of pets on the internet and once those discussions have been concluded, we will consider what action needs to be taken, including the introduction of further legislation.”

Alison Johnstone, a Green MSP and co-convener of the cross-party group on Animal Welfare, said people must think more carefully about where they get pets .

“Online advertisements of pets are often inappropriate, misleading or even illegal,” she said. “For example, the sale of pit bull dogs, very young animals, or animals with serious medical problems.”