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, Chairman 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: http://paag.org.uk/standards/launch/
Notes to Editors:
PAAG, which comprises representatives from the UK’s leading animal welfare groups, was created in 2001 to combat the growing concern amongst animal welfare organisations regarding the unethical classified advertising of pets.
PAAG comprises: Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, British Veterinary Association, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA), One Kind, PDSA, RWAF, Raystede, Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association (REPTA), Wood Green the Animals Charity, World Horse Welfare.
Spokespeople from PAAG are available for interview and we have further case study examples – please contact Charlotte Speedy to request comment or additional information:
Charlotte Speedy Dogs Trust Press Office
020 7833 7705 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Chairman 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.
For further press information, photos, research results and case studies please contact:
Charlotte Speedy Head of Communications Dogs Trust
Tel 0207 833 7705 Email email@example.com
Or visit www.paag.org.uk
Notes to Editor
- The Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) was created in 2001 to combat the growing concern amongst animal welfare organisations regarding unethical classified advertising of pets. In certain cases, such ads were illegally offering dogs banned under the Dangerous Dog Act, endangered animals or advertising establishments which were not fit for the breeding or boarding of animals.
- Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 a pet owner has a legal duty to ensure the welfare of his animal[s]. A pet’s welfare needs include a proper diet, somewhere suitable to live, any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, allowing animals to express normal behaviour, free from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
- PAAG is comprised of the following organisations: 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.
- PAAG also works closely with: Loot, Auto Exchange & Mart and the Pet Care Trust.
- The PAAG website offers downloadable advice booklets, practical tips and fillers for consumers and publishers alike and aims to promote best practice, provide uniformity, transparency and ultimately improve the welfare of the animals being bred, bought and sold via newspapers and online. It also offers a growing library of resources to help answer questions, download fillers and links for publications and websites.
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 the 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).