How the 'Digital Services Act' could help stop the illegal puppy trade

FOUR PAWS is mobilising policy makers and supporters to amend a new EU law to ban illegal puppy dealers from online marketplaces 


Every year, countless puppies are bred in deplorable conditions. They are taken from their mothers too young and transported illegally across Europe to be sold online via classified ad sites. Due to the anonymity these ad sites provide, anyone can sell puppies from unknown origins without fear of being caught. Many of the puppies sold are unvaccinated or sick, and some even die shortly after purchase, leaving new owners with hefty veterinary bills and broken hearts. 

The 'Digital Services Act' (DSA) could now end the illegal online puppy trade in the EU

The 'Digital Services Act' is a regulation that is valid in every EU country. By the end of 2021, the EU Commission will update the rules governing online advertising platforms through the DSA. There is a possibility to influence the final text of the law, and FOUR PAWS is keen to take this chance and finally regulate online pet advertising in the EU and address the illegal pet trade. We kindly ask MEPs and other decision makers to read our position paper.

The DSA provides the opportunity to protect pets and consumers from the online illegal puppy trade in Europe and block illegal puppy dealers from accessing their main channel to market. We are calling for a solution whereby only registered (and microchipped) pets can be advertised online by their registered owners. In this way, anyone advertising a pet for sale online will become traceable – and thereby accountable – should something go wrong after purchase. Illegal puppy dealers would soon realise the risk of getting caught far outweighs the benefits. 

To achieve this, the DSA should establish mandatory requirements for online marketplaces (such as classified ad sites) for pet advertising to phase out unfair commercial practices and misleading advertising. Online marketplaces should take steps to prevent illegal content being shown on their sites, as well as enabling traceability of both pet sellers and the animals being sold. Specifically, the DSA should require that online marketplaces use technologies to verify pet sellers by allowing only registered (and microchipped) pets to be advertised online by their registered (and hence traceable) keeper/owner. 

We must use this opportunity to make policy makers legislate EU-wide for a regulated online trade of companion animals, within the 'Digital Services Act'. 

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We need your help to achieve this!

We have a chance to influence what is included in this law. We need to make ministries in the member states aware they need to get active.

  • FOUR PAWS is calling on policy makers to include in the DSA that online marketplaces are required to use technologies to verify pet sellers by allowing only registered (and microchipped) pets to be advertised online by their registered (and hence traceable) keeper/owner.
  • FOUR PAWS is calling on its supporters to share our social media films.

Share part one: Victims of illegal puppy trade speak up

Share part two: Veterinarians across Europe call for change

Contribution acknowledgments 

FOUR PAWS would like to thank the veterinarians involved with the creation of our latest Digital Services Act lobbying film. Your contributions have made this project possible!

Rikke Christensen-Lee DVM, CEO and Veterinarian – Animal Rescue DK, Denmark.  

Oonagh Fitzgibbon MVB MRCVS, Ireland. 

Med.Vet Biana L Frehner, Small Animal Reproduction Department – University of Zurich, Switzerland.  

Dr Michael Lazaris, Veterinary Surgeon, UK. 

Nadezhda Mecheva, Head of Veterinary Clinic – FOUR PAWS Bulgaria.  

Catherine Moran, Veterinary Surgeon MVB, Ireland.  

Nila-Stratone Raluca Alexandra, Veterinarian, Romania.  

Niamh O’Toole MVB CertVD, Veterinary Surgeon and Practice Partner, Ireland.  

Professor Dr Iris M Reichler, Head of Small Animal Reproduction Department – University of Zurich, Switzerland.  

Dipl. Tzt. Maria Rosenberg, Chief Veterinarian - TIERARTZ LASSEE, Austria.  

Dr Kirsten Tönnies, Germany. 

The EU Commission must use this opportunity to update the 'Digital Services Act' to protect consumers from the illegal online puppy trade.  

FOUR PAWS Position Paper on the Digital Services Act

FOUR PAWS Position Paper on the Digital Services Act

Ending the Illegal Online Pet Trade: Recommendations for the Digital Services Act

Full traceability of pets

EUROPETNET, with funding and support from FOUR PAWS, are providing a technical solution for verifying a pet’s registration data before ads can be placed on classified ad sites. Find out more about the FOUR PAWS Model Solution for ending the illegal puppy trade here!

More information:  

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