You won’t be able to buy a cat or dog in the UK with cash

NEWS AND VIEWS: The UK government is planning to introduce legislation which prevents the purchase of companion animals with cash. This means that all purchases of cats and dogs and other animals would have to be through online transfers, debit or credit cards or cheques, as I understand it.

The government is building on what appears to be the success of amendments to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 which came into effect 2013. It outlawed the purchase of scrap metal with cash. The amendments were introduced because there were 1000 metal thefts in the UK weekly. They included war memorials, lead from church roofs and copper piping from schools. Cables from railway lines were also stolen, all of which cause great disruption. It appears that the legislation reduced metal thefts by 50%.

Payment by card
Payment by card. Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
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The world and their dog know that dog thefts have increased hugely over the period of the coronavirus pandemic due to extensive lockdowns prompting people to adopt dogs as companions. This is a controversial trend because some people are ill-prepared for such a long term commitment.

The current Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, wants to make it harder for thieves to trade stolen animals and apparently legislation is being drafted along the lines of the said scrap metal law.

The issue would appear to be whether such legislation would work. Scrap metal is traded through dealers and these are normally businesses; either sole traders or companies. Companion animals are often traded between individuals in an informal way often online on social media (against policy by the way). These sorts of transactions are under the radar and I would have thought that they are almost impossible to monitor.

Cash payment banned for purchases of pets in the UK
Cash payment banned for purchases of pets in the UK

I have a rather pessimistic viewpoint, sadly, on this laudable attempt to crack down on pet thefts of which there has been a 20% increase for dogs and about a 12% increase for pedigree cats, I’m told.

The plastic-only purchase of cats and dogs is part of a package of measures being taken by the UK government to better manage pet ownership both in the interests of owners and the animals.

It is long overdue because the law is out of date in terms of its recognition of the value of companion animals in society. They are regarded as chattels i.e. inanimate possessions by the law in the UK which, today, is entirely inappropriate as it ignores the advancement in animal rights and the relationship between pet and human. Most cat and dog owners regard their companion animal as a member of the family with equal value to human members. The law must reflect this.

As mentioned, however, I have my doubts about its workability. Even purchasing a purebred cat from a breeder with a credit card might be difficult because these are hobby breeders working from home. They are not businesses with systems in place to deal with credit and debit cards. They will resist the need to introduce these systems.

Perhaps best way to purchase a pet will be through an online bank transfer. These are traceable, obviously, and it is straightforward. However many people will resist. They are somewhat fearful of online bank transfers and don’t have the knowledge. A lot of people are still quite unsure about using computers never mind working online.

Although the new legislation would not affect rescue centres because they already have systems in place to accept payment by card or cheque. There is no problem there. The issue is with individual-to-individual sales and purchases and it is these which are particularly hard to crack down on.

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