Minimum age for cat or dog ownership UK and USA?

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There’s a very different approach to youngsters owning cats in the United States and in the United Kingdom. In the latter the law is spelled out in a section of the country’s main animal welfare law:

A person commits an offence if he sells an animal to a person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to be under the age of 16 years.

– UK’s Animal Welfare Act 2006 Section 11 (1). Click this to go to this section of the law on the UK government website.

The Act increased the minimum age at which anyone can buy a cat or other animal to 16.

So, in the UK you have to be the age of 16 or over to own a cat or dog (or any other animal species) whereas in the USA there is no federal minimum age requirement for owning a pet. However, some states, cities, and municipalities may have their own laws or regulations on this. In some cases, the laws may apply to specific types of pets or to certain breeds of dogs.

In the UK, the restrictions of youngsters applies to both sales and winning an animal as a prize at a fair. That’s rare. But there is a defense for the fairground operator. If the youngster won the prize in a ‘family context’ it is okay. I guess that means the youngster wins the prize and gets the animal but the parents are in attendance at the time so the prize is really a family one. And the parents have the final say.

Perhaps it is fair to say that the USA likes to be less regulated than Europe. They enjoy their freedoms in the US whereas countries like France think that it is the height of civilisation to have a 1000-page book containing the rules on how to live every aspect of one’s life.

Thinking about the British law, it does seem reasonable as some people under the age of 16 probably have an attitudinal problem making them unsuited to cat or dog ownership. There are also money issues. However, there are many exceptions and there must be some great kids under 16 who would be wonderful cat and dog owners. Probably far better than many adults in fact.

But ultimately it is down to their parents to manage it when their child expresses a desire to adopt a pet. The usual parental response might be to approve provided the youngster looks after the companion animal entirely and uses all their financial resources to do it well. The objective there would be to inculcate in the youngster’s mind that being a pet owner is a very responsible task and to not take on the responsibility i.e., adopt a pet, lightly.

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