Buying an animal from a pet shop

The Domestic Animals Act 1994 ensures that domestic animal businesses throughout Victoria continue to meet community expectations. The Act does this by establishing a registration scheme for domestic animal businesses such as pet shops and adopting enforceable Codes of Practice for their business operations.

A 'pet shop' is a shop situated in a permanent location and open at least 5 days a week (excluding public holidays) where a pet animal is offered for sale, sold or bought and sold. Animals include:

  • dog
  • cat
  • rabbit
  • guinea pig
  • mouse
  • reptile
  • caged bird.

Pet animals may also be offered for sale from a private residence (which is not required to comply with Code of Practice standards). It is illegal to sell pet animals from market stalls, 'trash and treasure' or similar establishments operating on a part-time basis.

The purpose of the Code of Practice for the Operation of Pet Shops is to define the minimum standards of accommodation, management and care  appropriate to the welfare, physical and behavioural needs of pet animals held for sale in registered pet shops.

People who operate or work in pet shops are required by the Act to comply with the minimum standards established by the Code and are encouraged to establish higher standards. Only businesses that meet the minimum requirements are permitted to operate. This means you can be confident your new pet is healthy and remedial action or advice is available if you do experience problems.

Before you purchase an animal from a pet shop, you should be aware of some important provisions in the Code of Practice.

Pet shop registration

A person must only operate a pet shop on a location which is registered with the council. Before you buy an animal from a pet shop, check the shop is registered with the council of the municipal district in which the business is located.

Source of animals for sale

Pet shops can only accept and sell cats and dogs obtained through an approved source.

Approved sources are:

  • pounds registered as domestic animal businesses with their local council
  • shelters registered as domestic animal businesses with their local council
  • individual foster carers registered with their local council under the foster carer scheme.

Minimum age of animals for sale

All animals offered for sale must be weaned and fully self sufficient. Minimum age of animals for sale must be:

  • 8 weeks for dogs sourced from a registered pound or shelter
  • 6 months for dogs sourced from a registered foster carer
  • 8 weeks for cats sourced from registered pounds, shelters or a foster carer
  • 5 weeks for rabbits
  • 4 weeks for guinea pigs
  • 3 weeks for mice.

Young birds must be self sufficient and should be fully feathered (moult permitting). Unweaned animals must not be on the shop premises.

Identification of the animal

Dogs and cats must be microchipped prior to the animal being sold or given away. The person selling or giving away the animal must provide the new owner's details to the council where the animal is to be kept.

Vaccinations for dogs and cats

Dogs and cats must be vaccinated at least fourteen days prior to sale. Dogs must be vaccinated for:

  • canine distemper
  • infectious canine hepatitis
  • canine parvovirus.

Cats must be vaccinated for:

  • infectious feline enteritis
  • feline respiratory disease (cat flu).

Vaccination certificate

All dogs and cats sold must have a vaccination certificate signed by a veterinarian. The certificate states that the animal has been vaccinated in accordance with the label instructions of the manufacturer of the vaccine.

This certificate must indicate the next date for further vaccination and any obvious defects. No animal with a potentially life threatening defect known at the time of sale should be sold.

Caring for your pet

Purchasers of pet animals must be given information about feeding, desexing, parasite control and health including:

  • procedures for emergency treatment during the guarantee period
  • housing
  • responsible pet ownership
  • current legislation covering the registration of pet animals.

Guarantee and refund

Within seven days of purchase, if your animal is not acceptable because of health or other reasons that are supported by a statement from a veterinarian (excluding accidents), the pet shop  must take the animal back and refund all monies or offer a replacement animal with the same guarantee.

If the animal is returned within three days for any other reason, the pet shop must refund 75% of the purchase price or offer a replacement animal with the same guarantee.

If the animal dies or is euthanised as a result of a disease that is traceable to the point of sale, the pet shop  must refund the purchase price or offer a replacement animal with the same guarantee.

Pet shops are required to display this guarantee  in a prominent position on a wall of the shop. Check for it in the pet shop you go to.

Page last updated: 03 Jun 2021