The illegal puppy trade is rife with animal cruelty and deception. Every year, countless puppies are bred in deplorable conditions, taken from their mothers too early and transported across Europe to be sold online via classified ad sites.

To help combat this exploitative trade, FOUR PAWS has developed a 'Model Solution for full traceability across the European online puppy trade', which requires all puppies to be microchipped and registered, and the seller’s details verified, before they can be advertised online.

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For the Model Solution to work, we need a strong legal framework controlling the online trade of pets across Europe. The 'Digital Services Act' (DSA) provides an important opportunity to protect pets and consumers from the online illegal puppy trade in the EU, if the relevant regulations are included in the law. Learn more on how you can make this happen. Find out more!

Statements of Support

Stakeholders across the EU have already aired their interest in participating in a pioneer project to implement the Model Solution, including Europetnet, pet registries and classified ad sites.

FOUR PAWS is in touch with and supported by several further stakeholders. 

Latest News & History of this project

What happened? 

26th August 2021

In August, the Irish classified ad site and the dog registration database FIDO started a pilot testing of PetSAFEthe technical system developed by Europetnet and FOUR PAWS to combat the illegal puppy trade online. The system enables the website to perform automated checks verifying that the people advertising a dog online are the registered keepers of the dog, and thereby preventing dogs being sold anonymously online. This first pilot will pave the way for further countries to perform such checks and make the online puppy trade safer. 

April 21st 2021

The Animal Health Law entered into force in the European Union in April 2021 setting out rules for the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases in animals kept by humans, such as pets. One of the clauses in this law requires all dog and cat sellers, breeders and transporters to register their establishments with the relevant national authority. This legal requirement should help enable greater transparency in the online trade in cats and dogs.  Read  about the Animal Health Law and FOUR PAWS’ Work.

April 2021

The illegal trade in companion animals is recognized by the EU Strategy to tackle Organised Crime (2021-2025) as a persisting matter with severe implications. (European Commission2021, Communication on the EU strategy to tackle organised crime

15th June 2020

The EU Platform on Animal Welfare has endorsed guidelines for consumers and online platforms. The guidelines include recommendations for the publication of both microchip number and breeder registration number on online platforms, and state that "Online platforms should as far as possible validate the information a seller provides to advertise online, especially in regard to the identity of the seller and the identity of the animal. Both can be checked through ID verification and back-end checks against the pet registration database, provided that the latter holds reliable data": Find more information under 'Voluntary initiative on the health and welfare of pets (dogs) in trade'

June 2020

A report by international experts to the European Commission included a suggestion to validate a companion animal’s registration to a traceable seller in a pet registry in order to advertise the animal online. Calls for Europe-wide identification and registration of companion animals, and their international traceability were also included. Find out more here. The report is based on the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Eurogroup for Animals’ expert workshop, “The Illegal Pet Trade: Game Over” of 21 April 2020.

February 2020

Milestone action by MEPs to end the illegal puppy trade!
The European Parliament has requested action from the European Commission to tackle the illegal trade in companion animals. With the implementation of 
mandatory registration for all dogs and cats, huge progress can be made towards protecting animals, the EU’s internal market, and consumer rights from the negative implications of the cruel trade. Read the FOUR PAWS press release here. Source:

January 2020 

Ireland releases new ANIMAL HEALTH AND WELFARE (SALE OR SUPPLY OF PET ANIMALS) REGULATIONS 2019: Persons selling five or more animals per year must register themselves and their premises with the government. All dog advertisements must display the dog’s microchip number, the dog’s origin, and if applicable, the seller’s registration number.

6th November

FOUR PAWS presents :''PetSAFE' - a system for EU online classified ad sites that checks whether puppies advertised for sale online are registered, at the  Expert Conference: 'Time to Act - A Mandatory Identification and Registration (I&R) for dogs and cats in Germany and Developments in the EU', Berlin. Link to the presentations. Link to PetSAFE presentation video (from minute 31), and to all presentation videos made at the conference. 

16th October:

FOUR PAWS UK submitted written evidence to the UK parliament’s Puppy Smuggling Inquiry and made various suggestions to help control the online puppy trade

8th October 

Europetnet’s Finbarr Heslin presented 'PetSAFE' at the event 'The Next Political Term: What's on the Horizon for Animals' in Brussels

June 2019

Presentation of the Model Solution to the Europetnet General Assembly 

Identification and Registration in the EU

Many countries across Europe already have mandatory Identification and Registration (I&R) of dogs which brings us even closer to achieving full implementation of our Model Solution across the EU.

Below shows a map of all the countries in the EU that already have mandatoryI&R:

Model Solution Identification and Registration in the EU Map

External references to the Model Solution

  • International Companion Animal Management Coalition mentioned the Model Solution as a Case Study in their “HUMANE DOG POPULATION MANAGEMENT GUIDANCE“ Report
  • Tracing the Trade: Model Solution for Full Traceability across the EU Online Puppy Trade. Article from International Companion Animal Management Coalition

More Information: 

If you have any questions, please contact

Have you been victim to or witnessed illegal puppy traders? Report your experience.