The problem

In Europe, a black market has developed smuggling puppies across the continent. These dogs can be bred in deplorable conditions and sold for huge profits to unwitting buyers. The illegal puppy trade in Europe is rife with animal cruelty, deception and risk of disease. The main channel to market for the illegal puppy trade is online classified ad sites. These sites provide sellers with easy access to a significant pool of potential buyers. Due to the anonymity usually provided by such platforms, international puppy traders use them to sell illegally imported puppies without much threat of being identified and prosecuted. Traceability is a key issue across the illegal puppy trade. Often puppy dealers disappear once the sale has been made online, leaving pet buyers to deal with sick animals and high veterinary costs. There is no legislation currently in place across the entire European Union that tackles this problem.

The opportunity

The EU Animal Health Law (AHL) presents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate the illegal puppy trade in the EU. The AHL will apply in all EU member states from 21 April 2021. The new law will require all breeders, sellers, transporters and assembly centres of dogs, cats and ferrets to register their establishments with the national government. This is the first step in providing traceability of these establishments.

Our solution

FOUR PAWS is calling for EU member states to allocate all registered breeders and sellers with a registration number. Classified ad sites should be legally required to verify the registration number before an ad for a dog sale can go live. If a seller is not registered, they should be not allowed to advertise online. Registration should ideally cover both private and commercial sellers.

To enable this system to work across the entire puppy trade, the national establishment databases must be linked with national Identification and Registration (I&R) databases. By linking these databases with online classifieds, via an international entity, full pet and seller traceability can be achieved. FOUR PAWS is working with Europetnet (an international collaboration of I&R databases) to develop a digital interface to bring classifieds together with I&R databases around Europe. Classifieds can then instantly verify if a seller’s stated information such as transponder number, age, breed and country of registration are correct.

The benefits

This system would enable enforcement agencies to quickly identify how many sick or illegally imported puppies are linked to which breeder or seller. Action can then be taken to address problems, such as when a puppy becomes sick soon after purchase and the buyer needs to seek compensation, or if an animal is found to be linked to a serious disease outbreak.

Traceability provides a critical protection against animal disease transmission and consumer exploitation, and it supports animal welfare and public health efforts. FOUR PAWS’ Model Solution sets a precedent for mandatory I&R for all dogs in Europe and is a useful guide for regions struggling with mass trade of companion animals.

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Full Lifespan Traceability