European vets call for better regulation of online pet trade

A joint letter highlighting the concerns of unregulated online trade of pets was signed by the three major European veterinary organisations (Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, Union of European Veterinary Practitioners, and FECAVA) last month. The animal protection organisation Four Paws, also signed the letter, which identifies ‘concerns about the increasing problems arising from the unregulated trade in animals on the internet.’ The letter is addressed to the European Commissioners Ansip (Digital Single Market) and Andriukaitis (Health and Food Safety).

The scale of online advertising by cat and dog breeders and sellers/dealers has significantly increased within the EU in recent years, with some classified ad sites now exceeding 200,000 adverts featuring pets for sale online at any one time.

Internet is the crucial channel through which fraudulent sellers get in touch with unsuspecting customers,” commented FECAVA president Wolfgang Dohne. “The illegal trade in puppies is thriving. It is a lucrative income generator, offering huge profit margins – a puppy bought in Poland for €50 can be sold in Germany for €1,000. The perspective of such easy benefits makes the illegal puppy trade a multi-million-euro business.”

Currently, the online trade in pets is not regulated in most European countries. “This not only increases the spread of infections, including zoonotic diseases, but also causes an emotional and financial trauma to European families who must deal with sick and dying animals that were bought online.”

He stressed: “Profit should never take priority over animal health and welfare or public health and should never harm the consumer. To facilitate enforcement and to protect consumers, public health as well as animal health and welfare, we furthermore ask to render the identification and registration of dogs mandatory throughout Europe.”

The letter lists a number of recommendations for improved regulation at EU level of the online trade of animals, including seller verification and registration, mandatory information about the animals (including ID number), a ban on “pet wanted” adverts and a possibility to report any violation of health or welfare regulations.

FVE, UEVP and FECAVA produced a joint report Working towards responsible dog trade’  which also strongly calls for regulation of the Internet.

Dr Dohne commented: “We will also call upon suppliers on online trade websites that permit the selling and buying of pets, thereby contributing to the problem. Some online providers such as Gumtree in Australia have already set up a policy to protect animals. This is clearly a step in the right direction.”

 (on the photo: from left FECAVA president Wolfgang Dohne, FVE president Rafael Laguëns, UEVP president Thierry Chambon)