Pet trade and charities unite to stop scammers


The UK’s leading industry and veterinary bodies and animal welfare organisations are putting on a united front to stop Britain’s animal lovers being duped into buying pets advertised online by ‘dodgy’ pet sellers.

The Pet Advertising Advisory Group – which includes the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association, Pet Industry Federation, Dogs Trust, PDSA, British Veterinary Association, Cats Protectio, RSPCA and Scottish SPCA – is uniting against online adverts from unscrupulous, and often criminal, pet sellers who make a good living pedling pets that are often sick, underage or have been illegally imported into the UK.

PAAG’s latest research into the British public’s pet-purchasing behaviour has found that 37% of people admitted they did no research before buying and, with 1,000 new online pet adverts appearing every day, the group has launched a new advisory website – – to arm the public with the knowledge to spot an untrustworthy ad or scam, and the confidence to ask the right questions to ensure they are dealing with a responsible seller. is the definitive source of advice and information for the public  and focuses on the research prospective owners should do before they buy, and what they can expect from pet ownership. It will be updated regularly with scams to look out for and will provide a place for anyone to confidentially report suspicious websites or traders.


Since it was formed in 2001, PAAG has been working to tackle the thousands of underhand online animal sellers.

Survey results showed that nearly half of the British public admitted to being unaware that regulations for the buying and selling of animals online even existed, or that commercial pet sellers were now required by law to be inspected and licensed by their Local Authority. PAAG experts fear the issues we are seeing now are just the tip of the iceberg and it has become far too easy for Britain’s animal lovers to be deceived.

Paula Boyden, chair of PAAG, the group behind, said: “We’re a nation of animal lovers, making us an easy target for unscrupulous sellers. Our research has found that we live in a click-first society where people will often head to online adverts for a pet because they can choose based on the best price, nearest location and how quickly they can get the animal they want. They are inundated with cute pictures and great offers which are very difficult to turn down. But, as we’ve seen time and time again, when an advert seems too good to be true it probably is.

“Many of these sellers are under hand, putting profit before welfare. The public – who have the best intentions and want to give an animal a loving home – are not at fault. is designed to protect them, to help stop people becoming a victim of a scam and to eliminate their chance of ending up with a sick pet, huge veterinary bills and heartbreak. We want our website to become the first step in their journey to getting a happy, healthy pet.”


The website also tells people what they should expect when they visit their new pet for the first time.

Alongside its public advice, PAAG is continuing its work with a number of classified websites including Gumtree, Pets4Homes and PreLoved to remove illegal adverts, and is pushing for all websites to commit to a set of minimum guidelines that all of their animal adverts should adhere to, ensuring all pets being advertised are done so legally and ethically.

“We want the day to come when people are confident regarding the authenticity of an advert or seller,” said Paula. “We are working hard today, to ensure the pet owners of tomorrow can buy a happy, healthy pet knowing it has been bred responsibly and the person they are buying from can be trusted.

“We would always encourage people to look at rehoming a rescue animal, but if you do decide to buy from a breeder, make sure you do your research to ensure you’re buying from a trustworthy source.”

If anyone spots a suspicious or illegal advert and wants to know what to do, please visit