More than 130,000 inappropriate advertisements selling pets have been removed from websites thanks to a set of agreed standards for online pet advertising.

The sector-led standards were agreed by members of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) and aim to educate website operators and the public about what they can do to help stop the misleading or illegal trade in pets and imported animals.

Signatories to the standards, agreed in 2013, include websites Preloved, Pets4Homes and Friday Media Group. 

The group, chaired by Dogs Trust, has regular meetings with Defra.

Examples of changes websites have made to improve standards are:

  • The removal of adverts for illegal animals, such as dogs banned under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act
  • The removal of adverts for non-human primates
  • The removal of adverts for pregnant animals

Animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said: “I congratulate the Pet Advertising Advisory Group for its hard work in devising these standards and the websites involved for working together to implement them. I am pleased so many misleading adverts have been removed.

“I urge the public to pay close attention to the health and welfare of advertised pets, and ask all websites involved in selling domestic pets to sign up to this voluntary code.”

PAAG spokesman Margaret Donnellan said: “PAAG is delighted to see the progress made by the classified websites that have committed to implementing the minimum standards.

“It is clear from the number of unscrupulous adverts blocked over the past 12 months that sites truly can improve their pet sections through proper commitment to animal welfare, and we would urge other classified sites in the UK to follow the committed sites’ example.

“Although a lot has been done, we all acknowledge there is more to do, and we hope continued engagement will ultimately help to make the internet a safer place for pets and those looking to purchase a pet.”

PAAG signatory websites have committed to:

  • running automated checks for “blacklisted” words/terms such as banned breeds and filtering out inappropriate or illegal adverts for “dangerous” animals
  • requiring all vendors to display a recent photograph and the age of the animal they are advertising, so any welfare issues can be identified
  • label clearly each pet advert to show whether it is a private sale, a commercial sale or from a rescue/rehoming centre
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