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[November 2021]

Growing problems in pet purchase from breeders: Take precautions before purchase

As people stay home longer in the pandemic, more and more people keep dogs and cats at home.

According to the survey by the Japan Pet Food Association1, about 950,000 dogs and cats heve been newly kept in a recent year in Japan (approximately 462,000 dogs and 483,000 cats). The number of dogs and cats kept as well as the growth rate thereof have increased in recent five years.

On the other hand, there has been a growth in inquiries and complaints related to pet purchase particularly from breeders (e.g. "I found after purchase that my dog was suffering from a congenital disease," "After applying for cancellation, I was charged an expensive penalty.")

Therefore, NCAC summed up problems in pet purchase from breeders to issue a consumer alert.

Diagram: Annual change in the number and rate of inquiries related to pet purchase from breeders2 registered with PIO-NET3
Graph showing the annual number of inquiries from FY2016 through the end of October 2021, followed by description in text
* The number 179 in the pink portion shows data registered with PIO-NET from April 2020 through the end of October 2020 for a year-to-year comparison with FY2021.

The number of inquiries was 250 in FY2016, 215 in FY2017, 225 in FY2018, 286 in FY2019, 324 in FY2020, and 203 in FY2021 through the end of October 2021.
The rate of inquiries related to pet purchase from breeders among total pet related inquiries was 17.6% in FY2016, 15.3% in FY2017, 17.3% in FY2018, 20.4% in FY2019, 21.3% in FY2020, 24.1% in FY2021 through the end of October 2021.

  1. 1 Survey of dogs and cats kept in Japan in 2020 (Japan Pet Food Association)(Japanese page)
  2. 2 The data also include cases related to purchase from pet shops if breeders have or might have something to do with consumer problems.
  3. 3 PIO-NET is a database that collects information on inquiries concerning consumer affairs by linking NCAC with local consumer affairs centers and similar organizations across Japan via an online network.

What are breeders?

In general, breeders are professionals in cross-fertilization, multiplication and breed improvement of animals and plants.

In Japan, those who breed and sell dogs, cats and other animals as pets for a profit need to be registered as category 1 animal handling business with a municipal government. They are required to follow relevant laws as professionals to handle living animals, as is the case in pet shops.

Sample Case

When I bought a dog, the breeder did not mention health conditions at all. At a later date I found out that the dog had a congenital heart disease

I found a lovely chihuahua on a breeder site. After exchanging messages a few times with a breeder, the breeder said, "Would you like to visit our office to see a chihuahua with unique hair color? It has not been posted yet." Then I visited the office. There were many puppies in a small room in a condominium. Dog cages were piled up there. The chihuahua was running actively. I liked the dog and bought it for about 800,000 yen on the spot. The breeder just handed me a receipt without explaining health conditions of the dog nor giving a written contract. A few days later, I took the dog to a veterinarian for vaccination. The vet said, "This puppy suffers from a congenital heart disease, so it's smaller than other chihuahua puppies. It can live less than a year." When I told the breeder about it, the breeder said, "If you return the puppy, I will repay you all." I have a close attachment to the puppy, so I don't want to return it. Instead I want the bleeder to pay the treatment cost. What shall I do?

(inquiry from a woman in her 40s in August 2021)

Other cases:

  • There was no space to step in the office. It was unhygienic. The dog I bought smelled bad.
  • Now there's no way to contact the breeder. I can't get a pedigree paper.
  • When I accessed a breeder site to seek an answer to a problem, I saw terms of use on the site stating "We do not intervene in buying and selling pets."
  • When I canceled buying an unborn dog, I was charged an expensive penalty.
  • When I canceled buying a baby cat on the next day, I was told that the deposit would not be refunded.

Problems highlighted

  • Some breeders are short of explanation and service.
    - No explanation on health conditions, no written contract
    - Each breeder reacts in its own way based on each rule when a pet disease has been found. The reaction may be different from what consumers want.
    - Some breeders do not keep a promise with consumers.
  • Some breeders enter into a contract with a consumer before showing the actual animal and explaining health conditions face to face to consumers.
  • Some breeders raise dogs and cats in poor conditions.
  • In general, breeder sites do not intervene in buying and selling pets even if there's trouble.
  • Some consumers enter into a contract without checking their living conditions and contract details.
    - Canceling a contract for their own reasons
    - Not checking in advance what will happen in case of cancellation

Advice for consumers

  • When you buy a pet from a breeder, meet the breeder in person. Choose a reliable breeder.
  • Before paying a deposit, check what will happen in case of cancellation.
  • Check the actual animal in the breeder's office before purchase. Receive an explanation face-to-face.
  • When using a breeder site, read terms of use carefully.
  • Bear in mind that a pet is a living matter. Do not buy it without careful consideration.
  • In case of trouble or concern, consult your local consumer affairs center.