Choosing a Pet

Choosing a Pet

Deciding to become a pet owner requires very considered thought and planning - all potential pet owners need to be sure they are really ready to take on the responsibility of owning a pet before going ahead and making a choice of a breed of animal.

The first question you must ask yourself is "Can I look after a pet properly?"  If the answer is "Yes", the next step is to make the right choice of pet in accordance with your lifestyle and priorities.

The average lifespan of a small dog is 11 years and 12 years for a cat.  This means pet owners need to be prepared to dedicate this many years (maybe even more) to properly looking after their pet.

If you are part of a family, the decision to get a pet should be a combined one, as all family members will come into contact with the pet and should be involved in looking after it.

Important things to consider before deciding to own a pet include:

  • Are you prepared to care for a dog/cat more than 10 years?
  • Can you afford to own a pet with costs such as registration, vaccination, general health care, vet bills, food, grooming, de-sexing, obedience training and boarding?
  • Do you have time to care for a pet? eg exercise, grooming, obedience and play
  • Who will look after your pet when you're away?
  • Do you live in a suitable location with appropriate housing for a pet?
  • Do you have adequate space for the pet you are considering?
  • What hours do you work and will the pet have any company during the day?
  • If renting accommodation, are you permitted to own a pet?
  • If buying a puppy/kitten, can you provide care during the day and meals at regular intervals until it is six months of age?
  • Can you confine your pet in suitable accommodation for the first three weeks?
  • Does a pet fit in with your lifestyle, activities, sporting pursuits and priorities?
  • Are you prepared to confine your pet inside at night (in the house or shed/garage)?

Choosing the Breed

If you can properly look after a pet, you need to carefully research and consider which breed of dog or cat will suit your lifestyle and surroundings.

Some Do's and Don'ts 

  • Do read up on the type of pet you are considering purchasing.  Contact dog and cat associations (eg Victorian Canine Association or Feline Control Council) who can put you in touch with breed clubs who can provide information on particular breeds
  • Do contact dog obedience clubs, local vets and speak to people you know or meet who own the particular breed you are considering
  • Do take into account factors like the size of your yard, the amount of exercise you can give a dog or the type of nature you want in a dog or cat to help determine the exact breed that is suitable for you
  • Don't choose a breed just because it is popular or fashionable - this can lead to unhappy outcomes for both the pet and the owner
  • Don't buy a working dog (eg kelpie or cattle dog) if you live in the city, unless you are prepared to give it plenty of daily exercise
  • Do remember that puppies which look adorable in a pet shop window could grow up to be big dogs that need a lot of exercise, food and space

Where to Purchase

All domestic animal businesses are now legally required to be registered with Council and must follow strict regulations under the Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animals Act 1994. Domestic animal business refers to any place where animals are kept and sold.  This includes pet shops, breeders, animal welfare shelters and government approved cat and dog associations.

Age of Animals

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

  • 8 weeks for dogs and cats
  • 5 weeks for rabbits
  • 4 weeks for guinea pigs
  • 3 weeks for mice
  • Juvenile birds must be self sufficient and should be fully feathered (moult permitting). 
  • Unweaned animals are not to be on the shop premises.


Dogs and cats must be vaccinated at least 14 days prior to sale to cover such diseases as canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis and canine parvovirus for dogs, and infectious feline enteritis and feline respiratory disease (cat flu) in cats.

All dogs and cats sold must have a vaccination certificate signed by a veterinarian stating 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 apparent at the time of sale should be sold.

The certificate protects both you as the new owner of a pet and also the business that sold it to you.

It is illegal to sell pets from casual markets.  It's not unusual for these animals to have received no suitable veterinary examination and as a result, they may not be free from physical defects.

Without a certificate, there is no guarantee covering the animal's health and if you decide to return to the seller to ask questions about your newly acquired pet's health, you may find the seller has moved on (some sellers have just one or two litters to sell and then disappear).  Never purchase a puppy or kitten that looks unwell.


Purchasers of pets must be given literature about feeding, desexing, parasite control, health (including procedures for emergency treatment during the guarantee period), housing, responsible pet ownership and current legislation covering the registration of pets.

Guarantee and Refund

If your animal is not acceptable because of health or other reasons that are supported by a statement from a veterinarian (excluding accidents) within seven days of purchase, pet shop proprietors must refund 75% of the purchase price or offer a replacement animal with the same guarantee.

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

Once you have decided that you can give a pet the care and attention it needs, the next important decision is to choose the right pet for your lifestyle and priorities.  These decisions are the basic building blocks for responsible pet ownership, which is good news for you, your pet and the wider community.

For more information, please contact Council's Customer Service on (03) 5722 0888 or email

Last Updated: 25-08-2011

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