Stop the Illegal Puppy Trade

The Illegal Puppy Trade – Can Technology Stop the Suffering? 

FOUR PAWS joins forces with classified ad sites to protect pets using new technology piloted in Ireland


Today we’re celebrating the launch of a brand new technical solution to the illegal online puppy trade in Ireland. Inspired by our Model Solution and working with Europetnet, an organisation that reunites lost pets with owners internationally, PetSAFE is a brand new approach to advertising pets online. Today’s move could revolutionise the market and block unscrupulous puppy traders from having access to online ad sites and drive out the illegal trade in puppies.  

Sadly, many traders have realised that the online puppy trade is a high return, low risk model and have taken advantage of this, to the detriment of many animals and their devasted new families.

The suffering behind this trade

Around 30,000 puppies cross the Irish border to the UK every year, where they are sold over the internet to families opening their arms, hearts and homes to a new family member. But despite the adorable puppy photography and convincing loving words, some of these breeders and traders are far from what they advertise and are profiting from trading puppies illegally.  

The reality is, for many of these new owners, the envisioned dreams of their new puppy quickly turn into a real-life nightmare. Soon after arriving in their new homes, the puppy's health rapidly declines. Despite emergency veterinary care, a diagnosis of diseases such as parvovirus or distemper can be deadly. Chances of survival are slim, and families are left emotionally devastated and financially damaged by the ordeal.

That is why we at FOUR PAWS are celebrating a step closer in stopping this sorrowful illegal practice, and preventing thousands of puppies and families from suffering in the future.

New technology can make a difference

Through PetSAFE, all advertisers will need to ensure that any dog advertised on Irish classified site,, are microchipped and registered. Vitally, the identity of the seller is also recorded. These details will bring an end to the anonymous nature of the trade and ensure that responsible breeders and rehoming organisations can still advertise online, but those evading the law will lose access to the online market.  

Today’s advance demonstrates that a safer online trade is possible and we’re hopeful that other countries will follow Ireland’s suit by adopting PetSAFE.

“We are proud that FOUR PAWS significantly contributed to implementing this solution within this multi-stakeholder setting. It showcases FOUR PAWS’ ability to understand and cooperate with the concerned industry to ensure better protection for animals. We look forward to seeing PetSAFE expand across Europe, and more pet registries and classified ad sites joining in.”

Julie Sanders, Companion Animal Programmes Director of FOUR PAWS

Find out more about PetSAFE and the FOUR PAWS Model Solution here

If you believe you have been the victim of an illegal puppy trader, please report your experience to FOUR PAWS. We work with a team of investigators and prosecutors around Europe to bring those profiting from our love of dogs to justice. Find out more here.

Joanna Randall

International Head of Companion Animals Campaigns

With over a decade of experience in animal protection, Joanna has worked on a variety of award-winning campaigns, convincing some of the biggest companies in the world to stand up for animals.


Today Joanna leads the international companion animal campaigns for FOUR PAWS: challenging businesses and governments to implement strong measures to protect pets, exposing unscrupulous puppy dealers, mobilising the public to take a stand against animal cruelty, and helping pet buyers to make informed decisions.