CRACKDOWN ON UNSCRUPULOUS ONLINE PET SELLERS
The Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) has welcomed news that the Government will take action to protect prospective buyers who use the internet to find their new pet
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Following its recent consultation and in its response to the EFRA Committee report on animal welfare in England, the Government has confirmed that it will address the growing concerns related to the online advertising of pet animals for sale by introducing a legal requirement on licensed sellers to display their licence number when advertising their animals for sale.
PAAG’s members, comprised of animal welfare organisations, trade associations and veterinary bodies, first came together over 15 years ago to combat growing concerns regarding the irresponsible advertising of pets, yet even still PAAG has witnessed a growing increase in the number of pet animals advertised for sale online.
Paula Boyden, Chair of PAAG, said, “The ease and popularity of the internet means that the impulse buying of pets has increasingly become an appealing option for many prospective buyers. However, the lure of a quick sale also attracts many unscrupulous breeders and dealers to websites.
“To tackle the challenges of online advertising of pets for sale, PAAG has been working with classified advertising sites to ensure the adverts are legal and ethical. Unfortunately without regulation of online advertisements, this voluntary approach has reached a plateau.
“Despite our efforts we have noticed many ‘bad’ adverts have moved to unengaged websites that have avoided working to implement the minimum standards on their sites. Therefore, today’s commitment by the Government to take action to encourage transparency and traceability of sellers is a welcome step forward for the welfare of the animals involved.”
Through the development of a set of Government-backed minimum standards PAAG has been helping websites distinguish appropriate adverts from those that should be removed.
Mrs Boyden continued, “We are pleased the Government will require breeder licence numbers to be displayed on adverts, but will continue to urge them to go further by introducing the requirement to display a registration number for unlicensed sellers of all animals.
“We will also be looking at other elements of the minimum standards that can become legally required. Ideally, we would like to see all of PAAG’s minimum standards made mandatory. We will continue to work with the Government to push for this, and will continue to work with websites to ensure we tackle the difficulties of online advertising of pets for sale.”
PAAG also works to raise public awareness of the need to act responsibly when buying pets, as well as the need to do research before making any purchase, and welcomes the move to require licensed sellers to provide written information when selling animals.
PAAG ON THE SUNDAY EXPRESS – “DON’T BE EXPLOITED BY INTERNET ROGUES WHEN BUYING PETS ONLINE”
Sunday, 12 April 2015
PAAG appeared in the Sunday Express on 12 April. Read the article below:
DEFRA AND PET ADVERTISING ADVISORY GROUP MOVE TO STAMP OUT ROGUE ONLINE PET ADVERTS
Thursday, 26 March 2015
Over 130,000 inappropriate adverts selling pets have been removed from different websites thanks to a set of agreed standards for online pet advertising.
The sector-led standards were agreed by members of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) and aim to educate website operators and the public about what they can do to help stop the misleading or illegal trade in pets and imported animals.
Signatories to the standards, agreed in 2013, include leading websites Preloved, Pets4Homes, and Friday Media Group.
The group, which is chaired by Dogs Trust, has regular meetings with Defra.
Examples of changes websites have made recently to improve standards are:
– The removal of adverts for illegal animals such as dogs banned under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act;
– The removal of adverts for non-human primates; and
– The removal of adverts for pregnant animals.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said, “I congratulate the Pet Advertising Advisory Group for their hard work in devising these standards, and the websites involved for working together to implement them. I am pleased that so many misleading adverts have been removed from view. I urge the public to pay close attention to the health and welfare of advertised pets, and ask all websites involved in selling domestic pets to sign up to this voluntary code.”
PAAG Spokesperson Margaret Donnellan said, “PAAG is delighted to see the progress made by the classified websites who have committed to implementing the minimum standards. It is clear from the number of unscrupulous adverts blocked over the past twelve months that sites truly can improve their pet sections through proper commitment to animal welfare, and we would urge other classified sites in the UK to follow the committed sites’ example.
“Although a lot has been done, we all acknowledge that there is more to do, and we hope that continued engagement will ultimately help to make the internet a safer place for pets and those looking to purchase a pet.”
The standards state that websites must undertake certain actions before advertising domestic pets. For example, PAAG signatory websites have committed to:
- Running automated checks for ‘blacklisted’ words/terms such as banned breeds and filtering out inappropriate or illegal adverts for ‘dangerous’ animals.
- Requiring all vendors to display a recent photograph and the age of the animal that they are advertising, so that any welfare issues can be identified.
- Label clearly each pet advert to show whether it is a private sale, a commercial sale or from a rescue/rehoming centre.
The full list of the minimum standards is published on the PAAG website.
THOUSANDS OF UNREGULATED PET ADVERTS CAUSING MISERY FOR CONSUMERS & PETS ALIKE
Animal organisations call on responsible consumers to report bad ads to websites
Monday, 29 September 2014
Over 100,000 inappropriate, misleading or illegal adverts were removed in just six months this year by some of the UK’s biggest classified advertising websites following a hugely successful pilot scheme run by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) to regulate online pet sales. A six-month monitoring scheme was undertaken by trained volunteers from a number of animal welfare organisations in membership of PAAG.
This vast number shows the level of commitment given by the participating websites to improving animal welfare and demonstrates how cooperation between PAAG and online classified websites can make a huge difference to the welfare of pets and the protection of consumers.
As the six month pilot scheme draws to a close, PAAG – which is made up of representatives from the UK’s leading animal welfare groups and trade associations – believes that animal lovers now have a huge opportunity to make a difference for the thousands of animals advertised online each day. The group is thus calling on the public to join the fight against bad adverts, reporting anything suspicious they find whilst browsing online classified pages directly to the sites themselves and informing PAAG where sites refuse to remove illegal or unscrupulous adverts from their pet sections.
From underage animals, banned breeds, illegally imported or endangered species to animals offered in exchange for inanimate objects, the adverts removed in the pilot scheme all contravened PAAG’s Minimum Standards which were launched in September 2013.
Endorsed by Defra and supported by the Scottish Government, the Minimum Standards aim to improve the welfare of pets sold online by encouraging websites to filter out illegal, unethical and unscrupulous advertisements.
The classified advertising websites involved in the pilot scheme: Gumtree, Pets4Homes, PreLoved, Vivastreet, FridayAds and EPupz removed adverts highlighted by their own filters and those reported to them by PAAG Volunteer Moderators.
Clarissa Baldwin, Chair of PAAG, says, “The truly staggering number of adverts that have been blocked in the pilot scheme is a real eye-opener in terms of the scale of the problem in the UK. We would like to say a huge thank you to the websites who have engaged with PAAG over the past year and who have committed to meeting the Minimum Standards. We hope that continued engagement will ultimately help to make the internet a safer place for pets and those looking to purchase a pet.
“Unfortunately, despite the fantastic efforts of a number of the biggest UK websites, thousands of other websites continue to accept illegal, unethical and unscrupulous adverts. We are urging any classified website in the UK offering pets for sale to sign up to the Minimum Standards so that progress can be made towards ensuring that all adverts on these websites are from reputable individuals or breeders.”
Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said, “Preventing over 100,000 illegal or unscrupulous online adverts of pets for sale is an incredible achievement and I applaud the Pet Advertising Advisory Group and advertising websites for making this happen.
“We can all play a part in ensuring the welfare of pets sold online. If anyone sees a suspicious pet advert, from the sale of under-age animals to banned breeds, I would urge them to report it directly to the host site. If the advert isn’t removed quickly, they should contact the Pet Advertising Advisory Group straight away.”
The Minimum Standards are just the first step on the road to solving the problems related to the online sale of pets. Anyone with a serious concern about the welfare of an animal in an advert should notify the RSPCA, SSPCA, USPCA and PAAG at email@example.com
While PAAG organisations would prefer people not to look for a new pet on a classified website they recommend that, for those that wish to, they follow the following guidelines:
Check that the website follows the PAAG Minimum Standards
Do thorough research before getting a pet. PAAG members or your local veterinary practice can provide advice on all aspects of a pet’s health and welfare, or direct you to a reputable source.
In the case of puppies and kittens, insist on seeing the mother with the litter and judge the parents’ health and temperament. Check that the animal you are interested in is interacting with the mother.
Where appropriate make sure your chosen pet is old enough to leave its mother.
Check that the facilities are clean, have adequate and appropriate bedding, toys and stimulation and that the animals appear alert and healthy.
Try to ensure that all relevant paperwork is available for inspection when you visit. This could include the pedigree and registration papers and the parents’ hereditary disease screening certificates.
Ask the advertiser for a written medical history of the animal which might include veterinary treatments such as vaccinations, neutering, microchipping and worming.
Request a written agreement that purchase is subject to a satisfactory examination by your veterinary surgeon within 72 hours of purchase.
If your chosen pet was not born at the place of purchase ask where it came from. If you encounter any problems please contact the publisher of the advertisement.
PETS ADVERTISED ON FACEBOOK
Monday, 28 April 2014
The Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) is aware that pets are increasingly being advertised for sale on Facebook. Representatives from the group have met with the site to discuss illegal and inappropriate adverts (e.g. animal abuse, poor welfare, illegal breeds). Facebook is a social media network with approximately 900 million members. It is not a classified website, and does not currently filter any posts before they are published. In our meeting, it became clear that it is unlikely that Facebook could or would apply the PAAG minimum standards based on their current business model.
Facebook works with the police to moderate any reported illegal posts. Reports should be dealt with within forty-eight hours. If reported, any post that promotes animal abuse or is illegal in the country referred to (e.g. a banned breed in the UK) should be removed. Facebook’s policy is not to ban posts unless notified.
PAAG recommends that members of the public report any illegal adverts involving animals that they find on Facebook. For information about the site’s posting and reporting policies, please visit:
If you decide you’d like a pet, PAAG recommends contacting your local animal rescue centre, or a reputable breeder or outlet. However, we recognise that, in the 21st century, the Internet has become a common marketplace for consumers searching for a pet. It is important to remember that a pet is a lifetime commitment and its purchase should never be undertaken on impulse. For guidance on buying a pet responsibly, please visit our Buying A Pet page.
RISKS OF BUYING A PET ONLINE EXPOSED
Animal charities launch Minimum Standards for UK websites with Defra backing
Wednesday, 4 September 2013
A puppy offered in a ‘swap for a mobile phone’ and a ‘fighting dog with big teeth’ are just two examples of the worst online pet advertisements being highlighted today by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG). The group is comprised of representatives from the UK’s leading animal welfare groups and specialist agencies who have to deal with the fall out of inappropriate advertising on a daily basis.
PAAG is today launching a set of Minimum Standards for websites offering pets for sale. They have been developed to improve the welfare of the pets and to protect members of the public from the risk of ending up with sick, dangerous or even illegal animals. The standards have also been endorsed by Defra, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Lord de Mauley, the Minister for Animal Welfare, who gathered the leading online pet classified websites together today to discuss the need for urgent improvement.
Some of the worst online ‘pet’ adverts include:
- Puppy offered for swap with a mobile phone
- Arctic fox for sale
- Very rare Zonkey (Zebra x Donkey) for sale
- Six week old Staffie puppy – a puppy shouldn’t be separated from its mother until it is a minimum of eight weeks old
- Male skunk for sale
- 4 Marmoset monkeys
- Pitbull puppy for sale – Pitbulls are illegal to sell in the UK
- A cat for sale in need of severe veterinary treatment due to a badly damaged eye
- An advert offering a ladies watch in exchange for a tortoise
- Golden Retriever wanted for swap with a Chihuahua
From underage animals, banned breeds, illegally imported or endangered species to animals offered in exchange for inanimate objects – online pet advertising in its current form appears to allow almost anything. PAAG members hope the standards will help improve the quality of websites’ systems to try to filter out unscrupulous advertisements.
People turn to their computers when looking to buy or sell almost anything, including pets. PAAG is working with the Government to remind consumers and websites that an animal is not a commodity like a washing machine or a car, and should not be advertised or bought in the same way. Websites in compliance with the standards will be identifiable to consumers on the PAAG website as the ethical and safer choice when deciding to find a pet online. The group is encouraging the public to stay vigilant to ensure that websites meet the standards consistently, and not to use sites that don’t apply the Minimum Standards.
Clarissa Baldwin, Chair of PAAG says, “Whilst we recognise that pets are commonly advertised online, it is still shocking to know that there are between 100,000 and 120,000 pet advertisements appearing on UK websites each day. The research undertaken by PAAG has revealed some truly terrible examples where animal welfare was clearly the last thought in the mind of the advertiser. Every day we hear from people who have bought an animal online only for it to fall sick or die soon after.
“We hope that the Minimum Standards will be just that, a minimum standard that a website must reach before posting advertisements for pets. In an ideal world we would prefer people not to buy pets online but would advise that if you are doing so that you check the website adheres to PAAG’s Minimum Standards.”
Lord de Mauley, Minister for Animal Welfare at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says, “It is vitally important that advertising websites do all they can to ensure the welfare of animals sold on their sites and to prevent the sale of banned breeds. I fully support PAAG’s Minimum Standards and would encourage all advertising websites to sign up to these.”
The Minimum Standards are just the first step on the road to improving how pets are advertised online. PAAG will work closely with the websites including Gumtree, Loot and Preloved to provide support on the reporting of suspicious adverts and the moderating of such ads. A team of volunteer moderators will also be created to provide further support for the websites and ensure that if anyone is turning to the internet to buy an animal they can do so with more confidence that they are buying a healthily bred pet.
PAAG has compiled a video of case studies showing the shocking impact of inappropriate online advertising on members of the public, the veterinary profession and animal welfare authorities. Please go to the following link.
BUYING A PET ONLINE – STYLETAILS FEATURE
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Check out this checklist for buying a puppy online, published on StyleTails this week!
PAAG ON ITV’S DAYBREAK
Thursday, 21 March 2013
On Wednesday 20th March ITV’s Daybreak aired a feature on the issues of buying a dog online which included advice and information from PAAG members and vet Marc Abraham. The programme includes the story of a dog owner who bought a puppy online, then found it was suffering from a range of serious illnesses which required costly veterinary treatment. The feature explained that many of the dogs that are advertised online are bred in puppy farms with no thought to their health and welfare. Marc Abraham provides advice about how people wanting a dog should get one safely.
Watch Daybreak’s piece on the online sale of pets and animals here.
DISPATCHES: UNDERCOVER DESIGNER DOGS
Friday, 15 March 2013
This week’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches investigated the worrying practice of illegally importing puppies into the UK from Eastern Europe. The programme claims that thousands of puppies enter British ports each year without the necessary paperwork or vaccinations required under the EU Pet Travel Scheme.
The relaxation of quarantine rules under the Pet Travel Scheme has fuelled a significant increase in the number of dogs brought into the country on pet passports. Our concern is that many of these puppies – even those entering legally – are transported for days across Europe, without their mothers and with little regard for their welfare, and then sold to unsuspecting UK buyers. We also fear the increased health risks to both dogs and humans as a result of more dogs entering the country.
Many of these puppies end up, as Dispatches showed, being sold online. PAAG therefore urges people to think twice before buying a pet on the internet, particularly one advertised as an import from Eastern Europe or sold with a passport. They risk purchasing an unhealthy and poorly socialised pet with falsified paperwork and without the necessary vaccinations. If a puppy is found to have entered the country illegally, they will have to be removed from the family home and quarantined which is a costly and upsetting experience for both the puppy and their new family.
Watch a clip from Dispatches: Undercover Designer Dogs, which featured input from Dogs Trust Veterinary Director Paula Boyden, here.
“HOW MUCH IS THAT ILLEGAL DOGGY ON THE WEBSITE…”
Pet buyers warned of dangers of classified ads
The UK’s leading animal welfare charities have united to clamp down on illegal pet classified adverts following a record number of complaints from people buying poorly pets.
Members of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group [PAAG] have launched a new website aimed at both consumers and publishers. The site www.paag.org.uk will also encourage recession-hit members of the public to think carefully before buying a new family pet through classified advertisements without sufficient consideration of the costs involved.
With the alarming rise in status dogs and underground dog fighting rings, the site also provides valuable help to publishers to ensure they don’t inadvertently publish illegal or inappropriate ads.
PAAG is made up of 12 animal welfare organisations, the Metropolitan Police, DEFRA and free-ads publisher Loot who have all noticed a worrying increase in the number of unsuitable pet-related classified adverts appearing both online and in newspapers. In particular, ads for banned breeds of dogs such as Pit Bull Terriers have become more common. These advertisements are illegal under animal welfare legislation and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
PAAG members are also concerned that consumers looking for a bargain family pet are falling foul of unscrupulous pet traffickers.
Chair of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, Clarissa Baldwin OBE, explains, “We’re urging people not to act on impulse and buy from a classified ad but to think carefully before taking on a family pet. Without the proper research you could unwittingly end up supporting a puppy farmer or an illegal animal breeder.
“Sadly the recession has meant some people are now looking to make a quick buck by breeding animals – the end result is an influx of pets being sold online with no consideration given to their health or welfare.”
PAAG members were particularly concerned when a member of the public recently posted an online ad offering a German Shepherd dog in exchange for an iphone or wireless laptop. This highlights a worrying trend that some people regard pets as disposable commodities.
Consumer Direct reported a concerning 40% increase in the number of complaints related to animal and pet purchases from 2006 to 2008.
In 2008 alone the helpline received 4,953 complaints about pet purchases compared to 3,787 calls in 2007 and 2,843 calls in 2006.
The user-friendly PAAG website offers consumers advice on a wide range of topics and now also boasts a new ‘click through’ button designed for pet owners to report any problems with animals bought online or through classifieds.
The site also aims to encourage publishers to be as uniform and transparent as possible when it comes to pet advertisements.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 now places a responsibility on the seller and buyer for the care of companion animals sold through classified advertisements. The advertiser’s responsibility however is purely ethical.
With this in mind, PAAG has launched an appeal to the Committee for Advertising Practice for the introduction of a formal Code for the advertising of ‘Companion Animals’. Publishers are being asked to run a short paragraph alongside any advertisements for sales of animals, birds, fish or exotic species, encouraging prospective buyers to ensure their choice and the place they buy it from is the right one for them.
Georgina Sutton from Holme Pierrepont in Nottinghamshire supports PAAG’s findings and has had first-hand experience of illegal and inappropriate pet adverts. She explains,:
“I knew things weren’t right the minute I saw Molly in the back of a battered car. I had agreed to meet a man at a petrol station after he convinced me it was the most convenient place to deliver a new puppy.
The puppies were crammed into small cages in the back of this old beaten-up car. Despite realising Molly was in a bad way I instantly paid £280 to take her home with me – I just couldn’t let my little Molly go back with him!
I had looked around for breeders but there weren’t any locally so I found a website featuring Lab puppies for sale.
Molly was half-dead when I eventually got her home and so I took her straight to the vet. I also rang the breeder and told him exactly what had happened but all he could do was blame me instead!
I’ve spent thousands of pounds on veterinary treatment including x-rays and heart/lung scans. I know I shouldn’t have bought her and I committed the ultimate sin, but I just wanted to help in my own way.
Molly’s case is not as bad as some, but it’s still bad enough. At least now she’s got the life she deserves.”
To avoid getting stung by unscrupulous pet traffickers, PAAG has compiled top tips for consumers looking for a new family pet:
1. Be prepared to wait, the right pet is worth waiting for.
2. In the case of puppies and kittens, insist on seeing the mother with the litter and judge the parents’ health and temperament. Check that the animal you are interested in is interacting with the mother. You should have easy access to the litter and be able to play with them and handle them freely.
3. Where appropriate, make sure your chosen pet is old enough to leave its mother – at least 8 weeks old for both puppies and kittens.
4. Check that the facilities are clean, have adequate and appropriate bedding, toys and stimulation and that the animals appear alert and healthy.
5. Visit your chosen pet regularly between the time of choosing and collection.
6. Try to ensure that all relevant paperwork is available for inspection when you visit. This could include the pedigree and registration papers and the parents’ hereditary disease screening certificates. If it is unavailable and the paperwork has to be sent on later, get a written commitment to when it will be delivered.
7. Ask the advertiser for a written medical history of the animal which might include vaccination and worming.
8. Request a written agreement that purchase is subject to a satisfactory examination by your veterinary surgeon within 72 hours of purchase. Alternatively make enquiries with your local vet to see if he would be willing to attend a viewing to check the pet for any visible health problems before you purchase it.
9. If your chosen pet was not born at the place of purchase ask where it came from. If you encounter any problems please contact the publisher.
WALES IS FIRST IN UK TO PUBLISH ANIMAL WELFARE CODES
Wales is the first country in the UK to publish guidance on the welfare of dogs, cats and horses. Codes from England and Scotland are expected to be published shortly.
The Welsh Assembly Government has worked in conjunction with animal welfare specialists across Great Britain to create Codes of Practice that give practical advice to help owners and keepers to understand the welfare needs of their animals. These codes will help pet owners recognise their legal responsibility and commitment in looking after their animals.
The codes of conduct can be viewed online.
ENDS/ March 2009
PET ADVISORY GROUP SEEKS RECOGNITION FOR COMPANION ANIMAL ADVERTISING
Call to Newspapers to Assist with Improving Animal Welfare
The Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) have spent some time trying to convince the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that their remit should extend to private advertisers and that they should develop a formal Code for the advertising of ‘Companion Animals’.
PAAG representatives have met with the CAP and sought meetings with the ASA, but remain frustrated that neither organisation will recognise the issue of companion animals within their remit.
PAAG has urged for the introduction of a Code, as the Animal Welfare Act 2006 now places a responsibility for companion animals on the owner, seller and the buyer for the care of that animal and this extends to the advertiser too, under the duty of care. Furthermore, the Group is well aware of the problems publishers face with recognising a banned breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prior to placing an advertisement and has already implemented a great deal of work with regard to this issue.
Clarissa Baldwin, Chair of PAAG, said, “In a recent survey carried out by the Blue Cross it is suggested that 40% of companion animals are purchased through commercial sources, which is a vast amount. We have been working on various pet advertising issues, but unfortunately the CAP and the ASA are failing to engage with us, citing time and again that the CAP Code does not extend to ‘classified private ads, including those appearing on-line’. We are immensely disappointed and somewhat bemused by this response as the majority of ‘products’ are covered by legislation and have their own advertising Codes, so why not companion animals, who surely should carry with them a great deal of responsibility and care?”
Due to the CAP’s inactivity, it is now the PAAG’s intention to build on the relationships that it already has with LOOT and Exchange & Mart and would like to also start engaging with other media newsgroups, with a view to increasing the PAAG membership and, in turn, its reach and influence.
Clarissa concluded, “We are aware that pet advertising is a major issue for many publications and we would therefore like to assist them in their endeavours to promote best practice, provide uniformity and transparency, and ultimately improve the welfare of the animals being bred, bought and sold via newspapers and online. We would therefore urge interested advertisers to contact us directly for further information and advice and possible participation at future meetings. ”
ENDS/ 26 April 2007
Notes To Editors:
PAAG consists of the following Members: British Veterinary Association, Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, The Kennel Club, OATA, Wood Green Animal Shelters, DEFRA, Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, PDSA, Onekind, World Horse Welfare and enjoys an association with the RSPCA and the publishers of Exchange & Mart, Loot, Ad Trader, the Metropolitan Police and DEFRA.
The self-regulating advertising industry is governed by codes of practice that are designed to protect consumers and create a level playing field for advertisers. The Codes are the responsibility of two industry Committees of Advertising Practice – CAP (Broadcast) and CAP (Non-broadcast) and are independently administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).