Full Traceability of Pets

The FOUR PAWS Model Solution for ending the illegal puppy trade

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Illegal Puppy Trade

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Puppy

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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 registration
 with the advertiser to be verified, before an advertisement can be published online. 

Please note: The European Commission has proposed new rules on the welfare and traceability of dogs and cats. Click here for more information, and how you can help ensure this regulation will make the online puppy trade safer.


The dog registration verification tool 'VeriPet' is one element of the Model Solution, and has already been successfully implemented. Watch this short video to learn how the system works.

Note: Any advertisements that may appear during the viewing of this video are unrelated to FOUR PAWS. We assume no liability for this content.

VeriPet is live on dogs.ie in Ireland, and ensures only registered dogs can be advertised by their keepers. Another pilot project was sucessfully conducted on anibis.ch in Switzerland. Watch this short video to learn how the system works. Read more about VeriPet, and find all requirements for an online trade regulation with pet registration data for classified ad sites, pet registries and governments below in the Model Solution Reports and the video. (Please note, VeriPet was formerly called PetSAFE.)

Puppys in cage

Model Solution Report

The FOUR PAWS international Report 


Summary of the Model Solution

For full traceability across the European online puppy trade

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Note: Any advertisements that may appear during the viewing of this video are unrelated to FOUR PAWS. We assume no liability for this content.

Country Reports

Puppies in a cage


Model Solution Report

Puppies in a cage


Model Solution Report

Puppies in a cage


Model Solution Report

Puppies in a cage


Model Solution Report

Puppies in a cage


Model Solution Report

Puppies in a cage


Model Solution Report


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. 

"WSAVA supports calls to regulate the online trade of dogs and cats to improve companion animal welfare. The mandatory identification and registration of animals and linking them with online selling platforms is critical for international traceability, as well as regulatory and legal compliance. WSAVA backs the initiative by FOUR PAWS to ensure full traceability by collaborating with our global veterinary community to educate and support veterinary practitioners and the public on this issue."

World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)

“After exploratory talks, the Board of Europetnet wishes to express its support for the aims and approach of the FOUR PAWS Model Solution. We believe that cooperation between online advertisement platforms and Identification and Registration Databases through the integration of their respective processes will not only ensure tighter regulation of the online trade in dogs, but will also enable traceability of those involved and ultimately go a long way to eradicate the illegal puppy trade. 

Michel Schoffeniels, President of Europetnet, Belgium

“Eurogroup for Animals is the only pan-European umbrella organisation for animal welfare. We channel the national influence of each of our 66 members into a powerful voice, creating opportunities for a change across Europe that cannot be achieved individually. Our aim is to improve animal welfare as quickly as possible by working together with the EU institutions to deliver better legislation and enforcement. Eurogroup for Animals has contributed to FOUR PAWS’ Model Solution Report, and will encourage the implementation of the outlined ideas by bringing such effective and efficient solutions to policy makers and key stakeholders at the EU level.” 

Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals, Belgium

“Tipaw is a marketplace matching responsible pet breeders and shelters with future pet parents. The site operates internationally and currently allows users from Belgium, the Netherlands and France to advertise dogs. Tipaw is keen to implement VeriPet to ensure only registered dogs can be advertised by their registered keepers, in order to ensure a safer, traceable dog trade. To do so, Tipaw depends on data kept in the Belgian, Dutch and French pet registration databases and asks them to participate in VeriPet as well, to help combat illegal puppy dealers.“

Pierre Moens de Hase, Founder & CEO Tipaw, Belgium, 2024, www.tipaw.com

“As the primary player for identification and registration of animals in Norway, DyreID recognises the importance of traceability when it comes to the online sales of pets. We therefore support the Europetnet and FOUR PAWS PetSAFE solution and are interested in moving forward with implementation within Norway."

Gudbrand Vatn, CEO DyreID, Norway

"Vets against puppy farming wish to support FOUR PAWS with the “Model Solution”. As Veterinary surgeons, we feel that the lack of microchipping and registration of puppies sold online is still a significant problem.  We believe that a two-step verification process will help to ensure a tighter regulation of the online puppy trade in Ireland. Ensuring that the data provided on a classified advert site is 100% accurate and legitimate is essential for our clients. In time, we think that this initiative will improve traceability of puppies sold online and in turn protect the consumer."

Vets Against Puppy Farming (Ireland)

"We are very excited about the proposed Model Solution set out by Four Paws. By adding additional layers of externally verified information to the process of buying & selling dogs online we believe that the end consumer and their pets will benefit enormously. Dogs.ie is committed to supporting such a system and integrating the solution directly into our platform" 

Paul Savage, CEO dogs.ie, September 2020 

“Both 'Chipworks' in the UK, and 'Fido' in Ireland are interested in participating in a online trade registration validation and check system. In the case of both registries we are ready to integrate official breeder registration / license numbers within the current data file structure and we have developed IT systems that allow for information checks to validate online advertisements.”

Finbarr Heslin, Director of Fido (Irish-government licensed I&R database) and Director of Chipworks (UK-government approved I&R database), UK

“Animal welfare and the quality of our advertisements in the animal market have been the highest priority for us for years: we have already introduced a number of measures, some pointing the way, and we are not tired of pushing ahead vigorously with the fight against the illegal puppy trade. The logical consequence can therefore only be to follow FOUR PAWS‘ idea of ​​complete traceability in the online puppy trade and to actively participate in shaping it. Together, with our alliance partner VDH, the Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen, we will therefore implement the Model Solution and thus form a strong alliance: as a market leader in serious online pet transfers and as part of a national media group, we also see the obligation to promote this topic socio-politically, and to establish the Model Solution of FOUR PAWS as a perspective standard, and to persuade the politicians to support us consistently in our efforts against illegal activities. 

Daniel D'Amico, Chief executive at deine-tierwelt.de, Germany

“The edogs website, which specialises in the online trade in dogs, is proud to announce its collaboration with FOUR PAWS. The online platform, which has been in operation since December 1st 2017, has a key focus on providing safety in the online dog market. During a time of illegal puppy traders, and so-called ‘trunk puppies’, it is important for edogs to be able to offer a trustworthy platform. FOUR PAWS is committed to establishing full traceability in the online puppy trade, so the edogs team sat down with them to develop this collaboration. Through the FOUR PAWS Model Solution, edogs has learned how it is possible to stop the illegal puppy trade. The team from edogs is happy to support this project to make the dog trade safer.” 

Liselotte Laffree, edogs.de, Germany

“Dyreværnet ('Animal care') in Denmark support the Model Solution and all the work being done to implement 'tracing the trade' in regard to online sales and import/export of puppies, and dogs in general. We will work to facilitate the implementation of the Model Solution in Denmark via Dansk Hunderegister (the Danish Dog Registry), Fødevarestyrelsen (the Food administration, from where animal welfare is governed) and relevant politicians. 

Dr Rikke Lee, CEO Dyreværnet, Denmark

“The dubious trade of puppies, increasingly being sold via classified ad sites, represents a serious animal welfare problem in Europe and is associated with immense animal suffering. In order to dry-up the illegal market and create much needed transparency, the bmt expressly supports the Model Solution presented by VIER PFOTEN. Since it ties in with existing European law and can fall back on already existing modern database systems for the identification and registration of animals, its successful implementation and national roll-out is ultimately only a question of political will.” 

Karsten Plücker, Chairman of Bund gegen Missbrauch der Tiere (bmt), Germany

“ANIMALDATA.COM welcomes the FOUR PAWS initiative against the illegal puppy trade which requires all breeders and pet traders to be registered. In order to be able to trace each animal, a breeders or traders registration number would need to be recorded in both state and I&R databases prior to any transfer of a puppy. ANIMALDATA.COM is ready to implement the related requirements of EUROPETNET in Austria.” 

Dr Herbert Mueller, Internationale Tierkennzeichendatenbank animaldata.com, Austria

“The anonymous online pet trade must be banned in order to protect animals from abuse and torture. The FOUR PAWS Model Solution demonstrates how the online puppy trade can be regulated and how the legal online trade can implement binding rules that protect animals. Implementation of the Model Solution could enable complete Europe-wide traceability and transparency of the sale and purchase of animals, ultimately serving both animal welfare and human welfare.” 

Stefan Weber, Tierschutzbeauftragter der Länder, SPD Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

“The Veterinary Association for Animal Protection e.V. (TVT) has been concerned about the lack of transparency in the international puppy trade for many years. Over 1,300 of our members who work as veterinarians in practices across Germany, as official veterinarians and in business and research, are increasingly confronted with the consequences of this trade; an increase in transmissible diseases such as distemper and parvovirus, seriously ill puppies are being sold online with no way of tracing their origin, and many overwhelmed owners are having to give up their behaviorally disturbed imported dogs. The Model Solution proposed by FOUR PAWS will provide transparency and traceability of this trade at European level, and improve both animal welfare as well as human and animal health.” 

Dr Andreas Franzky, Chairman of Tierärztlichen Vereinigung für Tierschutz e.V. (TVT), Germany

“Clear identification and registration of dogs in member clubs has been a standard within our association for a long time. The VDH participates intensively in both the alliance "Arbeitsgemeinschaft Welpenhandel" and network 'K&R' (Identification and Registration) in order to achieve a national registration of all dogs and a registration in Germany. Within the EU member states, Germany is one of the three countries in which there is no national obligation to register. In order to establish effective rules to control and restrict puppy trade within the EU, it is particularly important to control and restrict online animal trade. The FOUR PAWS Model Solution and the inclusion of an EU-wide registration of all breeders, sellers and facilities such as animal shelters provides a concrete way of achieving these goals.” 

Udo Kopernik, Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen, Germany

“The puppy trade is a serious animal welfare problem. Because it is so easy for profiteers to escape control when selling via the online trade, they use this option extensively. It is therefore important to create legal requirements, especially for these online platforms. Sellers and the animals they advertise must be registered to ensure traceability.” 

Susanne Mittag, SPD member of the Bundestag, Germany

“Verbraucherschutz.de is committed to the interests of consumers and tries to protect them from harm. In my opinion, this also includes warning consumers against buying animals, especially dogs and puppies, on the Internet, since these are mostly sick puppies that come with high veterinary costs that are incurred by consumers. We therefore welcome the new EU law, which obliges commercial sellers to provide a registration number. Verbraucherschutz.de supports the Model Solution from FOUR PAWS and demands that all dogs should also be registered. In this way, online portals can understand the origin of the dogs and the identity of the dealers. In order to make trading really secure, all online platforms must comply with these measures.” 

Gunda Lauckenmann, verbraucherschutz.de, Germany

I comprehensively support FOUR PAWS’ campaign against the illegal online animal trade and I am pleased about the dedication of all animal welfare activists on this issue. The illegal trade has been ignored for far too long and the suffering of tens of thousands of animals has been tolerated. This must end once and for all. We need mandatory identification and registration of all dealers and full, transparent traceability of the animals - as suggested by the future-oriented Model Solution from FOUR PAWS.” 

Andreas Hartenfels, spokesman for animal welfare, parliamentary group BÜNDNIS 90 / DIE GRÜNEN Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

“Illegal puppy and pet trade through internet platforms and digital sales exchanges leads to increased animal suffering and increased risks to animal and human health. Therefore, it should be prevented in the future. In addition, a mandatory nationwide digital registration of pets is required, for example using microchips in a clever database, to keep the pet trade as transparent as possible.” 

Joschka Knuth, animal welfare policy spokesman for the parliamentary group BÜNDNIS 90 / DIE GRÜNEN Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

“The Model Solution from FOUR PAWS starts exactly where we can legally put an end to the illegal puppy trade: by tackling the lack of traceability in the online trade. If online classified advertising platforms could be equipped with tools that make it possible to verify the identity of the seller and check the registration of the puppies - market access for illegal trade could be effectively blocked. Nevertheless, we also have to make the consumer responsible. Everyone who buys a dog is responsible for ensuring that this is done in a serious manner. Spontaneous bargain purchases from dubious sellers on the Internet keep this criminal million-dollar business going and causing a lot of animal suffering.” 

Christoph Skutella, animal welfare policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group Bavaria, Germany

“Animal Society has long been concerned with the illegal trade in companion animals, which is still an ongoing phenomenon in Romania, despite the fact that important legal steps have been taken in order to combat it. Therefore, Animal Society welcomes the comprehensive and efficient Model Solution presented by FOUR PAWS and is ready to contribute to its implementation at the national and European level. We believe the Model Solution will prove crucial in limiting and eventually eliminating the enormous animal suffering caused by this reprehensible trade.” 

Anca Tomescu, President of Animal Society, Romania 

“The unregulated trade of animals over the internet is problematic. The identity of dealers and sellers is difficult to verify and legitimate offers are difficult to distinguish from dubious ones. This makes illegal puppy trade easier and animal suffering more prevalent. If you care about dogs, you should know where the puppies come from. I support the demand for binding regulations and traceability of the online puppy trade which requires reliable identification of all animal sellers and registration of the animals.” 

Anette Kramme, SPD member of the Bundestag and parliamentary state secretary to the Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Germany

“The FOUR PAWS Model Solution is an effective means of halting criminal activities in the pet trade and thus preventing tremendous animal suffering by ensuring full traceability and transparency of the trade. The implementation of the Model Solution following the enactment of the Animal Health Law (Regulation (EU) 2016/429 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2019) would lay a new foundation in animal health law. It is likely that non-EU countries will follow suit. TIR welcomes the model, which would also be an important step for Switzerland, as the current structures are still far from effective in stopping the illegal trade. TIR therefore fully supports the Model Solution and considers it essential that the various institutions, some of which have been newly created, work together.“ 

Bianca Körner, Lawyer at Stiftung für das Tier im Recht (TIR), Switzerland 

“The Animal Welfare Officers of the Federal States support the Model Solution presented by FOUR PAWS as an important step for traceability in the EU-wide online trade of pets. Not only the lack of identification and registration obligations in Germany and the associated lack of traceability of pets, but also the anonymity of sellers prevalent on the internet on classified ad portals, allows billions of dollars of criminal activity at the expense of countless animals.The solution presented by FOUR PAWS shows a feasible way to tackle the complex problems of the illegal puppy trade and to get to grips with ethically unacceptable animal welfare practices through targeted cooperation between the involved parties."

Diana Plange, elected spokeswoman for the Animal Welfare Officer of the Federal States and State Animal Protection Officer of Berlin, Germany

Latest News & History of this Project

What happened? 

December 2023Brussels 

The European Commission proposed new rules on the welfare and traceability of dogs and catsIf made lawthese rules will establish, for the first time, uniform EU standards for the breeding, housing and handling of dogs and cats in breeding establishments and pet shops as well as shelters. The traceability of dogs and cats will also be reinforced through mandatory identification and registration in national databases to fight illegal trade and better control animal welfare conditions in the establishments. Additionally, a new reportby the European Commission was published with the outcomes of the EU Enforcement Action on illegal trade of cats and dogs that took place in 2022-2023. The findingsdenounce the extent of the illegal trade in dogs and cats, as well as the current loopholes that allow it to happen. 

29 November 2023: Bulgaria, UK, the Netherlands, Romania

Two new reports are available: The results of a vet questionnaire in Bulgaria show serious gaps in compliance with the legal requirements regarding the breeding, raising and selling of dogs. For example, 60% of the 37 participating veterinarians report that daily new owners come with a puppy they've already bought that hasn't yet been issued a passport, microchipped or registered. The results of the questionnaire support FOUR PAWS‘ call for a registration verification in the online trade, to help enforce the Identification and Registration obligation. The same applies for the results of the new Puppy Scammer Report. Investigations were executed in the UK, the Netherlands, Romania and Bulgaria to test the legitimacy of offers for puppies advertised on classified ad sites, and to expose the various methods unscrupulous dealers employ to deceive buyers.  Please find these reports and more interesting data on our new section „Facts and figures on the illegal puppy trade“ at the bottom of this page. 

14 November 2023: Zurich 

Following the merger of Scout24 Switzerland and TX Markets to form SMG Swiss Marketplace Group AG in 2021, anibis.ch hasannounced a complete technical renewal and a concentration on the Swiss market in November 2023. In regards to dog advertisements, anibis.ch introduced a new check process. The automated check of a dog’s registration to the owner (VeriPet) was stopped.  In addition, dog advertisements that do not comply with Swiss legal requirements, as well as advertisements for certain breeds, will no longer be published. Likewise, dogs from abroad for which there is no information about the owner can no longer be offered for sale on anibis.ch: Only advertisements for dogs that are already in Switzerland and registered on Amicus are permitted. FOUR PAWS regrets anibis.ch’s decision to stop the automated checks due to the new circumstances but is grateful for the successful execution of the VeriPet pilot project in Switzerland, which proved that the concept of verifying dog ownership works. 

24 May 2022: Zurich

FOUR PAWS International, European reference registry EuropetnetSwiss dog database Amicus, and online classifieds portal anibis.ch launched the ‘VeriPet’ system in Switzerland. Sellers who place ads to sell dogs registered in Switzerland on anibis.ch must now have their ownership details verified through the national Swiss pet microchip database Amicus, before their ads go live. More information here.

April 2022: Sydney

Joanna Randall from FOUR PAWS presented the Model Solution and FOUR PAWS recommendations at the Select Committee on Puppy Farming in New South Wales, established to inquire into and report on puppy farming in this state. The terms of reference include the committee examining the provisions of the Companion Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms) Bill 2021.

30 March 2022: Dublin 

Finbarr Heslin from Europetnet and Paul Savage from the classified ad site dogs.ie presented VeriPet’s two-factor authentication system in the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Ireland. They presented to the committee why this type of verification is important for both buyer and seller, and how it helps to make sure that the right information is present in an online advert.

26th August 2021

In August, the Irish classified ad site Dogs.ie 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: www.europarl.europa.eu

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 mandatory I&R:

Model Solution Identification and Registration in the EU Map

Facts and figures on the illegal puppy trade

  • Puppy Scammers Exposed: Investigation report on testing the legitimacy of offers for puppies advertised on classified ad sites, and to expose the various methods unscrupulous dealers employ to deceive buyers. (UK, NL, BG, RO), 2023
  • Trends in the illegal puppy trade through the eyes of Bulgarian veterinarians, 2023: Report
  • Insights into the Online Trade from FOUR PAWS’ Puppy Trade Reporting Tool, 2023: Statistics from April 2021-September 2023
  • Tricks of the Trade: exposing the truth about the illegal puppy trade in the UK, 2023: Report about how online platforms are helping cruel breeders to thrive
  • Pandemic Pups Report, 2022: A survey to better understand puppy buying trends during the Pandemic, carried out in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom

More Information: 

If you have any questions, please contact office@vier-pfoten.org

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

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