The UK’s leading animal welfare charities have united to clamp down onillegal pet classified adverts following a record number of complaintsfrom 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 will also encourage recession-hit members of the public to think carefully before buying a new family pet through classified advertisements.

PAAG websiteWith 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.

Consumer Direct reported a concerning 40 per cent increase in thenumber of complaints related to animal and pet purchases from 2006 to2008. In 2008 alone the helpline received 4,953 complaints about petpurchases compared to 3,787 calls in 2007 and 2,843 calls in 2006.

PAAG is made up of 12 organisations including animal welfare charities, 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.

PAAG members are also concerned that consumers looking for a bargain family pet are falling foul of unscrupulous pet traffickers.

Clarissa BaldwinChairman of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, Clarissa Baldwin, said: “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, claiming that it highlighted a worrying trend that some people regard pets as disposable commodities.

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 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.


PAAG is comprised of the following organisations: Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, The Blue Cross, Cats Protection, The Kennel Club, The Mayhew Animal Home, Wood Green Animal Shelters, DEFRA, Metropolitan Police, Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, RSPCA.

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