Clampdown on dodgy online horse ads


Inappropriate horse classifieds are among those being targeted by a British authority that is introducing minimum standards for sale animals.

A horse being offered as a swap for ‘a quid’ or a motorbike and a partially blind pony being offered free to a new home and are just two examples of the worst online horse advertisements highlighted by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG). The group comprises representatives from the UK’s leading animal welfare groups and specialist agencies who have to deal with the fall out of inappropriate advertising. It is working with the Government to remind consumers and websites that an animal is not a commodity like a washing machine or a car, and should not be advertised or bought in the same way.
PAAG has launched a set of Minimum Standards for websites offering pets for sale, including horses. They have been developed to improve the welfare of the pets and to protect members of the public from the risk of ending up with sick, dangerous or even illegal animals. The standards have also been endorsed by Defra, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Lord de Mauley, the Minister for Animal Welfare, who gathered the leading online pet classified websites together today to discuss the need for urgent improvement.

Some of the worst online adverts include:

  • A free mini Shetland pony stallion who would make a good companion or lawnmower
  • An 11-year-old girl pleading to borrow a pony for £10 a week
  • Very rare Zonkey (Zebra x Donkey) for sale
  • An underweight and injured 20-year-old ex racehorse needing a foster home
  • Four miniature Shetlands free to good home
  • A tortoise offered in exchange for a watch

From underage animals, banned breeds, illegally imported or endangered species to animals offered in exchange for inanimate objects – online pet advertising in its current form appears to allow almost anything. PAAG members hope the standards will help improve the quality of websites’ systems to try to filter out unscrupulous advertisements.

The Minimum Standards are just the first step on the road. PAAG will work closely with websites to provide support on the reporting of suspicious adverts and the moderating of such ads. A team of volunteer moderators will also be created to provide further support for the websites and ensure that if anyone is turning to the internet to buy an animal they can do so with more confidence that they are buying a healthily bred pet.

Websites in compliance with the standards will be identifiable to consumers on the PAAG website as the ethical and safer choice when deciding to find a pet online. The group is encouraging the public to stay vigilant to ensure that websites meet the standards consistently, and not to use sites that don’t apply the Minimum Standards.

PAAG Chairman Clarissa Baldwin said: “That there are between 100,000 and 120,000 pet advertisements appearing on UK websites each day. The research undertaken by PAAG has revealed some truly terrible examples where animal welfare was clearly the last thought in the mind of the advertiser. Every day we hear from people who have bought an animal online only for it to fall sick or die soon after.

“In an ideal world we would prefer people not to buy pets online but would advise that if you are doing so that you check the website adheres to PAAG’s Minimum Standards.”

PAAG, which created in 2001 to combat the growing concern amongst animal welfare organisations regarding the unethical classified advertising of pets, comprises Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, British Veterinary Association, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA), One Kind, PDSA, RWAF, Raystede, Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association (REPTA), Wood Green the Animals Charity, and World Horse Welfare.

More information: 



 Websites must: 

  1. run automated checks for ‘blacklisted’ words/terms such as banned breeds and filter for misleading or inappropriate adverts
  2. require all vendors to include a recent photograph of the animal that they are advertising and monitor for suspicious usage of images.
  3. require that all adverts display the age of the animal advertised. No pet should be advertised for transfer to a new owner before it is weaned and no longer dependent on its parents.  
  4. permanently ban vendors – on a three strikes and you’re out basis – who attempt to post illegal adverts, and take down illegal/inappropriate adverts within 12 working hours of notification
  5. ensure that every view item page includes prominent links to PAAG advice on buying and selling a pet (and specific advice for commonly advertised species), including “pop ups”
  6. label clearly on each ad whether it is a private sale, commercial sale or from a rescue/rehoming centre
  7. not include adverts for farmed animals or adverts specifying that the animal is to be used for working, hunting, or guarding in the pet section
  8. monitor for multiple mobile/telephone numbers and email addresses in private sales and investigate and potentially ban frequent/repeat breeders. ‘Frequent’ is defined as the same vendor offering a third different animal in a twelve month period.
  9. ban adverts of live vertebrate animals as food
  10. ban adverts offering stud animals, animals in season  or animals ‘for rent’ or ‘loan’ in pet section. Note that adverts offering horses or donkeys for loan are acceptable
  11. ban adverts offering pregnant animals for sale
  12. ensure that no pets are advertised for swapping with other pets, services or goods
  13. ensure that species scheduled by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act are clearly marked as such and make clear to vendors that it is an offence to offer a species covered by EU Wildlife Trade Regulations Annex A and listed by CITES for sale without a valid Article 10 Certificate. Non-human primates should not be offered for sale.
  14. exclude any advert where there is a reasonable concern for the health and welfare of the animal involved
  15. provide a clearly visible function for purchasers to report illegal or inappropriate adverts
  16. ensure that no live vertebrates are advertised for sale as deliverable through the postal system, national or international
  17. require all vendors to state the country of residence from which the animal is being sold
  18. require all commercial vendors to provide Local Authority licence information when submitting an advertisement


One thought on “Clampdown on dodgy online horse ads

  • September 6, 2013 at 4:33 am

    I feel that you cannot ban EVERYTHING!! That will start a whole lot of other issues with people possibly just shooting the horse that they cannot advertise. There has to be common sense and a middle ground! Not just going CRAZY and ban ban ban everything. Think ahead to what the cosiquences of this action may be.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *