Anonymous and dangerous: Illegal puppy dealers to be evicted from online classifieds

FOUR PAWS proposes EU model solution for traceability of dogs


5.7.2019 – Countless puppies are cruelly bred every year, taken from their mothers too soon, illegally imported from Eastern Europe and anonymously sold online across the EU. New owners are frequently left to deal with sick puppies, and often high veterinary costs. Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has now developed a model solution that could finally enable full traceability of dogs and thereby exclude illegal puppy dealers from selling via online classifieds sites, their main channel to market. The model solution proposes an EU-wide alignment of mandatory pet microchipping with the registration of all people involved in a dog’s life. Based on this data, classified sites can instantly and automatically check ads selling puppies before approving them to go live – a crucial step towards disease prevention, consumer safety and protection of animal welfare. 

Anonymity remains a central problem of the online puppy trade: puppies are purchased on classified ad sites with little more than the click of a button, and the sellers, who only need an email address to place an ad, can disappear once the sale is made. However, the new EU Animal Health Law (AHL), coming into full force in 2021, will require all those involved in the breeding, sale and transport of puppies to register their establishments with their national authorities. With the introduction of the AHL, FOUR PAWS identified an additional opportunity to prevent illegal puppy dealers from selling on classified ad sites: The FOUR PAWS model solution proposes that every puppy is identified with a microchip and registered with its owner in a national pet database by a veterinarian. Then, only dogs with valid data can be advertised online. Moreover, the authorities will be able to identify all persons involved in a dog’s life. 

“Our model solution enables classified ad sites to check a dog’s registration details – based on the data available in the pet microchipping databases. At the same time, they can check whether a seller is registered according to the Animal Health Law. Thereby this solution protects both humans and animals” 

Joanna Randall, Head of Companion Animal Campaigns at FOUR PAWS International

Growing demand for cheap purebred puppies

The growing demand for purebred puppies in Western Europe has led to puppy farms being set up in countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. These backyard farms primarily supply pet shops and puppy dealers. Puppies are bred at the lowest possible cost and kept in deplorable conditions. The puppies are often sick and unvaccinated, and have forged or non-existent identification and vaccination documents, posing considerable risk to both human and animal health. Due to the high demand and low costs, the profit margins are extremely high, and the risk of being caught is low. “FOUR PAWS is determined to implement a strict and properly enforced system to end the illegal puppy trade online, however, to be effective we need national government support to introduce the model solution,” says Randall. The proposed system will further enable the authorities to trace undeclared taxable income, as many of the puppy dealers are operating on a commercial scale but are not registered as such and therefore not paying the proper taxes.

The report outlining this solution entitled “Tracing the Trade: The FOUR PAWS Model Solution for Full Traceability Across the EU Online Puppy Trade” can be downloaded via

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