Online sale of pets in Europe: What's the cost?

Members of Dogs Trust are in Brussels as part of the EU Dog & Cat Alliance, who have unveiled a new report into the damaging consequences of animals being sold as pets online in Europe, during an event at the European Parliament. Hosted by Mr Pavel Poc MEP, the event highlighted an urgent need to tackle the worrying trend for pets to be sold on unregulated websites to unsuspecting members of the public.

What is the EU Dog & Cat Alliance?

The EU Dog & Cat Alliance was launched in 2014, and is a leading European expert on companion animal welfare. 75 organisations - including Dogs Trust - from 24 EU Member States are involved in the Alliance, working within the EU on issues relating to animal welfare, and national legislation to protect dogs and cats across all 28 EU Member States. Find out more, here.

What is the problem?

Over three quarters of EU Member States have hundreds of unregulated websites selling cats, dogs and exotic animals. This can result in animals being sold in poor health, for fighting purposes or merely as a fashion accessory that is later abandoned because consumers are unaware of how they have been bred and cared for.

What is the answer?

To address this issue, the EU Dog & Cat Alliance has launched an EU Pet Advertising Advisory Group (EUPAAG), which aims to bring together pet selling websites, animal welfare organisations and relevant government department representatives to agree on a set of voluntary minimum standards and guidelines for advertising pets online. This follows the launch of successful groups in Ireland (IPAAG), Belgium (BelgPAAG) and the UK (PAAG). The Alliance is working towards setting up additional groups across the EU in an effort to promote self-regulation while at the same time looking to collaborate with decision-makers to improve EU and national legislation.

The guidelines emphasise to all websites and consumers the importance of questioning the background and breeding history of each animal, for example, to stop them being sold in poor health, for fighting purposes or merely as a fashion accessory that is later abandoned because consumers are unaware of how they have been bred and cared for prior to being sold. The guidelines also include requirements for all adverts to display the age of the animal advertised, and, among other guidelines, permanently ban vendors who attempt to post adverts that fall foul of the EUPAAG minimum standards.

EU Dog & Cat Alliance speaker, Steve Goody said:

"This report shows an urgent need for action. Our report found over 400,000 adverts for dogs, 100,000 for cats and thousands more for exotic animals in the 21 Member States we looked at. In some countries, where no regulations exist, animals are being sold on with no thoughts to welfare at all. This poses a risk not only to the health of the animals, but it also becomes a question of public health and consumer protection.

"The EU Dog & Cat Alliance wants to provide animal welfare organisations across Europe with a toolkit and strategy to engage with websites selling pets. This bold initiative is already seeing excellent results in Ireland, Belgium and the UK, and I look forward to working with MEPs to improve animal welfare in Europe."

Event host Mr Pavel Poc MEP, Vice Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and Honorary President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, concluded:

"Selling animals online is not just a question of animal health and welfare, it also concerns consumer protection, the health of our citizens due to the risk of disease and our internal EU market. As the EU moves forward to become the world leader in the digital economy, we should be ensuring that animal welfare is taken seriously, so our citizens can have peace of mind when buying pets online. MEPs will have an important role to play in making this happen, both in their home countries and in calling for better regulation at EU level."

Find out more about the work of the EU Dog & Cat Alliance