Advertising Standards

Regulating online advertising of pets for sale, rehoming or exchange 

What information is required on an advert by law? 

The Pet Advertising Advisory Group is pleased that Regulations in England, Scotland and Wales have made certain PAAG Advertising Standards legal requirements for licensed sellers. In England, Scotland and Wales, licensed sellers must now, by law: 

  • include the number of the licence holder’s licence, 
  • specify the local authority that issued the licence,
  • include a recognisable photograph of the animal being advertised (for cats and dogs only in Scotland), 
  • (except in the case of fish) display the age of the animal being advertised,
  • state the country of residence of the animal from which it is being sold, and
  • state the country of origin of the animal. 

Note these Regulations do not apply to invertebrates (e.g. insects, shellfish, tarantulas and snails). 

For more information about who requires a licence, please visit the above links or the ‘Legislation’ section on our ‘Selling a pet’ page. 

It is an offence to offer a species listed on GB Wildlife Trade Regulations Annex A for sale without a valid Article 10 Certificate, and any advert must include the certificate number on the advert.   


Advertising Standards

In addition to helping ensure the above requirements set out by law are met on their site, the Pet Advertising Advisory Group asks websites to commit to upholding the following standards for all adverts by all sellers on their sites: 

Websites must:

Label each advert clearly as to whether the advert is for a private sale I.e. someone who does not require a licence; by a licensed seller; or from a rescue/rehoming centre. Websites should make clear the definitions of each seller category so that sellers can ensure they are advertising in the correct category and buyers can make informed purchases.

Run automated checks for ‘blacklisted’ words/terms, including for banned breeds and prohibited species. These include dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and animals prohibited under the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019.

Filter for other misleading, inappropriate and illegal adverts and take any adverts found or notified down within 12 working hours.

Monitor for multiple mobile/telephone numbers and email addresses in private sales and investigate and potentially ban frequent/repeat vendors if they are unable to provide evidence of a Local Authority licence. ‘Frequent’ is defined as the same vendor offering a third different animal (except fish) for sale in a twelve-month period.

Permanently ban vendors who attempt to post illegal adverts (on three strikes and out basis).

Not include adverts for farmed animals.

Ban adverts of live vertebrate animals as food.

Ban adverts offering pregnant animals for sale.

Ban adverts offering stud animals, animals in season or animals ‘for rent’ or ‘loan’ within the pet section. Note that this does not prohibit websites from having a separate stud section. Adverts offering horses or donkeys for loan are also acceptable.

Remove adverts specifying that the animal is to be used for working, hunting or guarding from the pet section.

Cross reference adverts for dogs that have been tail docked with those breeds exempted in England, Scotland and Wales. Remove any adverts for breeds that are advertised as docked but are not an exempted breed, and those exempted breeds that have not been legally docked by a vet.

Ban adverts for dogs that have been ear cropped.

Ensure that no pets are advertised for swapping with other pets, services or goods.

Non-human primates and all other species scheduled by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act should not be offered for sale on general classified advertising websites. It should be made clear to vendors that it is an offence to offer a species covered by GB Wildlife Trade Regulations Annex A without a valid Article 10 Certificate. There are further species which are not suitable for sale on general classified websites and should not be offered for sale on these platforms.

These are raptors (including owls), anacondas, Burmese pythons, African rock pythons and the following reptiles as they are all associated with hereditary defects known to be associated with welfare problems: spider morph royal pythons, jaguar morph carpet pythons and enigma morph leopard geckos.

Exclude any advert where there is a reasonable concern for the health and welfare of the animal involved.

Ensure that no live vertebrates (including fish) are advertised for sale as deliverable through the postal system (national or international) or deliverable by the seller in-person (unless it is an equine).

Ensure that all dog and cat adverts state whether the animal is, or will be, microchipped. It is a legal requirement for all dogs over 8 weeks of age to be microchipped and registered by their breeder with a compliant database operator; then for new owners to transfer the microchip record to their details. From 10 June 2024, cats are required to be microchipped and registered on a database by 20 weeks of age.

Ensure that all equine adverts state that the animal is fully identified (passported - or overstamped - with a UK Passport Issuing Organisation and microchipped). It is a legal requirement for all equines to be fully identified before they are sold.

Ensure that every view item page includes prominent links to PAAG advice on buying and selling an animal.

Ensure that every view item page includes prominent links to PAAG approved care information on feeding, housing, handling, husbandry, life expectancy, provision of suitable accessories and veterinary care for the animal being advertised.

Provide a clearly visible function for purchasers to report illegal, misleading or inappropriate adverts.

Require all vendors to include information relating to the species name (and breed as relevant) and, except for fish, the sex of the animal(s).

Require all vendors to include a recent photograph of the animal(s) they are advertising and monitor for suspicious usage of images. For equines, photos should be from the front and both sides.

Require all vendors to display the age of the animal(s) they are advertising (except for fish). No animal should be advertised for transfer to a new owner before it is weaned and no longer dependent on its parents.

Require all vendors to state the country of origin, as well as the country of residence from which the animal is being sold, and ideally the country and/or region if in the UK.

Provide advice and support that encourages responsible rehoming to any sellers offering an animal as ‘free to a good home’.

Require all breeders to include a recognisable photo of young animals with their mother (This applies to dogs, cats, rabbit, ferrets and chinchillas).

We ask that all of our engaged websites make an annual declaration to commit to upholding the PAAG Advertising Standards. 

Please note PAAG is not a regulatory body but as a group of experts from animal welfare organisations, trade associations, Trading Standards bodies and veterinary bodies, we have developed the Advertising Standards to help websites distinguish between appropriate adverts and those that should be removed. Our voluntary Advertising Standards have been endorsed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DAERA in Northern Ireland, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government. 

PAAG encourages websites to go beyond these standards where appropriate and as advances in technology allow. Some areas where our engaged sites have introduced additional measures are: 

  • Mandatory ID verification processes 
  • Implementation of deposit schemes 
  • Implementation of pay walls 

PAAG reserves the right to add any additional measures to our Advertising Standards. 

For more information about the legal obligations of both buyers and sellers, please visit the ‘Legislation’ section of our ‘Selling a pet’ page. 

Need to report a pet that's ill?

Whilst looking at online pet adverts, perhaps in search of a new addition to your family, or merely out of interest, if you come across an advert that concerns you, we urge you to report it! Reporting concerning adverts is a crucial step in cracking down on unscrupulous breeders and dealers.