Sick, dangerous & even illegal animals: FOUR PAWS reveals risks of online pet trade

(FOUR PAWS Press Release) International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has revealed shocking evidence of the illegal pet trade on online classified ad sites – with ads offering illegally imported puppies, banned breeds and endangered and wild caught species.

As a result people looking for a pet online could end up with a sick, dangerous or even illegal animal, the charity warns. FOUR PAWS has carried out research on 42 classified ad sites across 10 countries world-wide (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, South Africa Switzerland, and UK).

A puppy being swapped for a smart phone, a pit bull advertised illegally for professional dog fighting, illegally imported puppies from Lithuania, an unwanted pregnant monkey, wild boar being advertised to train hunting dogs, an endangered ring-tailed lemur for sale as a pet and a parrot being swapped for a lap top – these are just some of the shocking ads discovered during the research and all caused by a lack of proper regulation of the online pet trade.

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“With our international campaign FOUR PAWS wants to stop this “pet deception”,” says Julie Sanders, International Director of Companion Animals Department at FOUR PAWS, “As part of the campaign we have developed an online tool which ranks the more commonly used classified ad sites to show the public which sites could be putting them, and indeed the animals, at risk: www.petdeception.org.”

Based on a set of requirements developed by FOUR PAWS, the sites are ranked according to which FOUR PAWS measures they have introduced to protect animals sold on their sites. Additionally, supporters can help the cause by signing an online petition calling on leading global brands such as eBay Classified Group, which owns Gumtree in the UK, to adopt the animal welfare measures.

Thousands of classified adverts offering pets are listed across various websites every day, with animals being purchased just like products, at the click of a button. Some sites have as many as 200,000 adverts featuring pets for sale online at any one time, with over 4 million viewers. Classified ad sites benefit from the high click through rate and the resulting advertising revenue.

However many of these sites, even those owned by trusted brands such as eBay Classifieds Group, can be poorly regulated and therefore offer little protection for the pets being advertised and for the people looking online to find a pet.

“We have developed a set of recommended measures and are calling on global brands to lead the way in protecting animals and people by adopting them,” adds Sanders.

The measures include classified ad sites:

  • having to verify sellers identity, so that there is no anonymous selling on the sites for animal sales, to help stop illegal activity
  • running pre checks of all adverts to remove illegal, misleading or inappropriate adverts before they go live
  • having mandatory information in the ad on the animal for example important care, health and documentation details to help the buyer make an informed decision when buying a pet
  • having in place and enforcing a list of animals which are banned from being sold on the site including primates, endangered and wild caught animals, underage animals and pregnant animals to help address animal welfare issues

FOUR PAWS has also produced a unique online video to try to raise awareness of this problem:

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