Why have minimum standards?

Owning a pet is both an expensive and long term commitment and unfortunately there are far too many internet adverts that encourage impulse buying.  A photo of a cute cuddly animal with as little information as possible is geared to encourage impulse buying.

IPAAG has introduced a list of minimum standards for websites advertising animals  to ensure that the welfare of animals sold online is protected and that any illegal activity is identified and investigated.

Why not campaign for a complete ban on selling/advertising pets over the internet?

It is widely accepted that campaigning for a ban on the advertising of pets online would be unrealistic.  Difficult as it may be we have to accept that many people now choose to look for pets online in much the same way as the internet is the first choice for finding a job, a home and purchasing a wide range of goods and services. A ban on advertising of animals would not be enforceable, and would simply push the problems underground and onto sites which are owned and based outside Ireland. These sites would not be willing to comply with any animal welfare standards, or report any suspicions of illegal activity. Internet sites based outside Ireland could not be regulated and would be impossible to police.

Many responsible breeders of pets choose to advertise online. This is the reality of the situation and it is unlikely to change.  Animal welfare organisations also use the internet to advertise the animals they have for rehoming through their website, social media sites etc.  This is an important outlet for rescue and rehoming organisations to show potential rehomers the animals they have in their care that are looking for new homes.  Animal welfare organisations use the internet to urge potential pet owners to consider adopting a rescue animal rather than going to a breeder.


What are the IPAAG Minimum Standards?

The Irish Pet Advertising Advisory Group (IPAAG) has introduced a list of minimum standards for websites to ensure the welfare of animals sold online is protected and that any illegal activity is identified and investigated. By signing up to these minimum standards, websites are committed not to host an advert that has been framed in a way that may encourage less informed consumers to make a purchase they are likely to regret.

IPAAG compliant websites have agreed to provide the necessary information to allow a buyer to make an informed choice about whether or not to view or purchase the animal.  Purchasers will have access to such vital information about the animal such as its age, behaviours, or physical condition.

IPAAG believes  that the minimum standards will help to address some of the problems that we identified with the online advertising of pets, such as poor standards of animal welfare, lack of information about its history, the offloading of sick or potentially, dealers masquerading as private sellers, the pets being swopped or ending up in the hands of unsuitable owners. IPAAG will make it harder for rogue breeders to operate and will make it more difficult for illegal activity to go unchecked. We would emphasise however that these are minimum standards and we aspire to have better protections in the future.

How will you ensure that websites comply?

The cooperation of websites is key to the success of the IPAAG Minimum Standards.  We feel that the best way to ensure that websites comply is through public demand for higher standards and better adverts.  As the pet owning public become more aware of the standards they can begin to move away from those sites which do not insist on minimum standards for the adverts they host.  It is hoped that this will lead to a decrease in traffic to the worst sites which should provide an incentive to improve and ensure that all adverts comply with the IPAAG minimum standards.

As well as consumers choosing to use the best sites, which only host advertisements which meet the minimum standards, we also believe that engaged members of the public will proactively report adverts which do not meet the standards.  A number of welfare organisations have in place a dedicated group of volunteer moderators who look at adverts (for all species) and report those that don’t meet the standards directly to the websites concerned.  The trade association representatives on IPAAG will also deal with questions about adverts that potentially infringe good welfare standards.

All members of IPAAG are committed to educating the public about the online pet advertising environment, and encouraging consumer awareness and cooperation to improve animal welfare.

 Is there any further work to be done by IPAAG to prevent pets being exploited by internet traders?

There is still more work to be done by IPAAG to identify sites that provide classified pet advertising and to encourage them to adopt and meet the IPAAG Minimum Standards.  As the leading sites improve it is likely that a proportion of the bad adverts they host will move onto other, smaller sites.  It is important that IPAAG continues to identify and reach out to all sites.

Is educating the public part of IPAAG’s strategy?

Educating the public is a key element of IPAAG’s work and the individual charities that are members of IPAAG remain committed to educating and informing the public about the online pet sales environment.

The minimum standards are only one element of a much wider project.  We have to ensure that consumers know what to look for and are aware of the best practice guidelines when looking for a pet online, or elsewhere. Informed consumers will be a powerful force in driving standards of pet advertising and sale across the board.

The new IPAAG website provides a go-to place for information to assist potential pet owners on what to look for and factors to consider if buying a new pet.  This is in the best interests of both the animal and the new owner.  We feel that dedicated consumer awareness campaigns and the implementation of minimum standards for online advertising will be much more likely to encourage more responsible purchase and sale in the long term than an outright ban on online advertising.

What is IPAAG’s position on dogs being sold as Christmas presents?

Buying a pet should be a carefully considered decision for the whole family as it is a big commitment. Rescue centres are all too aware of the consequences of pets that end up as unwanted presents. Owning a pet is a big commitment and one that should not be made lightly. Pets should never be bought as a surprise at any time of the year. A pet is for life, not just for Christmas.

Are there warning signs that I should watch out for before making contact with the advertiser?

There are some indicators which could suggest a disreputable breeder, for example advertising more than two different breeds or using stock photos from Google or other advertisers.  Ultimately if you are suspicious, ALWAYS look elsewhere. NEVER buy a pet just because you feel sorry for it as this money will line the pockets of non-reputable breeders and encourage them to continue breeding.

Are there any warning signs I should watch out for once I’ve made contact with the advertiser?

In the case of puppies, the seller should always allow you to see the puppy with its mother in its home environment.  You should NEVER agree to meet at a neutral location or have delivered as it is essential to see the dog where it was reared.  With older dogs it is still helpful to see any vaccination certificates or pedigree information if it is available.  It is also very important to be able to see the dog in its normal environment.

What paperwork should I expect to receive when buying a puppy?

  • A contract of sale – it is recommended that the breeder provides you with this. Amongst other things this should detail both the breeder and your responsibility to the puppy.
  • Written advice on training, feeding, exercise, worming and vaccinations
  • A pedigree detailing your dog’s ancestry (where applicable)
  • Copies of any additional health certificates for the puppy’s parents
  • Any health or DNA tests results
  • Information on which vaccinations your puppy has had and which ones are still required.
  • Microchipping is now a legal requirement for all dogs and puppies once they are 12 weeks old. It is also a legal requirement to be in possession of a microchipping certificate and it is important your contact details are kept up-to-date. Failure to do so will be an offence under the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013. The seller should provide you with details of the microchip. It is the buyers responsibility to inform the database operator of the change in owner’s details.

What does it mean if a dog is advertised as having Irish Kennel Club (IKC) registration papers?

An Irish Kennel Club registration means that you know you’re getting a genuine pedigree with the predictable characteristics and care needs you would expect for the breed you have purchased. Prospective buyers should contact the IKC to check if a dog is registered before they travel to view, however they must have certain details before the IKC can confirm this i.e. name and address of breeder so they can confirm if a litter was recently registered.  If you can provide a microchip number they can confirm that the dog is definitely registered. The IKC will assist buyers with as much information as possible in line with data protection legislation.

A new owner must forward their registration documents to the IKC as soon as possible after purchase for transfer of ownership. It is only at this point would the IKC be able to establish if a certificate was genuine or not. They have had very few cases over the years of fraudulent paperwork, when this has occurred they advise the person to report it to the Gardaí.

If you are in doubt, always check with the IKC by telephone on 01 453 3300 or email info@ikc.ie

Are there particular types of dogs that it is illegal to sell online?

In Ireland it is not illegal to sell any particular type of dog online.

What is IPAAG’s position on puppy farming?

Puppy farming can be defined as volume breeders who have little regard or consideration for the basic needs and care of their breeding bitches and puppies.  IPAAG is wholeheartedly against any breeding in which profit is prioritised over the health and welfare of the puppies and parents.

Is puppy farming illegal?

It is not illegal to breed puppies. Many people perceive that any dog breeding establishment is a ‘puppy farm’. Any breeder with more than six breeding bitches must register their premises under the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. This will include an inspection by the relevant local authority veterinary surgeon and / or the local authority dog warden who are authorised to carry out the inspections. Responsible breeders will be registered and will display the relevant certificates on their website.

What should I look for to ensure I avoid a puppy farmed dog?

  • Consider alternatives to buying a puppy like getting a rescue dog or puppy.
  • Ask to see the puppies’ mother
  • See the puppy in its breeding environment and ask to look at the kennelling conditions if they were not raised within the breeder’s house. If you suspect the conditions are not right, then do not buy the puppy.
  • Ask to see the relevant health certificates for the puppy’s parents
  • Be prepared to be put on a waiting list – a healthy puppy is well-worth waiting for.
  • Ask if you can return the puppy if things don’t work out. Responsible and reputable breeders will always say yes, provided that the return of the dog does not present a health risk.
  • Be suspicious of a breeder selling several different breeds, unless you are sure of their credentials.
  • Report your concerns to the relevant authority if you suspect the breeder is a unregulated puppy farmer.
  • Never pick your puppy up from a neutral location such as a car park or motorway service station.
  • Don’t every buy a puppy because you feel like you’re rescuing it. You’ll only be making space available for another puppy to fill and condemning further puppies to a miserable life.
  • Ask the breeder if they are registered under the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. If the answer is yes, ask to see the certificate issued by the local authority.

I suspect I’ve bought a puppy farmed dog, what should I do?

If you buy a puppy and it becomes ill, you should take it to a veterinary surgeon without delay.

If you suspect that a breeder is putting profit before the health and welfare of the animal you should not buy a puppy from them as this simply perpetuates the problem. If you have concerns about the conditions in which puppies are being kept in at any breeding establishment (even one that is registered under the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010), you should report it to the local authority, the ISPCA Helpline on 1890 515 515 or other relevant authority.

Is the docking of a dog’s tail illegal?

Since March 2014 it has been illegal for a lay-person to perform any procedure involving interference with the sensitive tissue or bone structure of an animal including docking of tails and removal of dew claws.  A dog’s tail serves as a protective mechanism and part of various strategies used to communicate with one another and establish boundaries and to prevent aggressive encounters. Amputating the tail weakens the dog’s ability to communicate properly, leaving them vulnerable to being misunderstood by other dogs and humans and placing them at a distinct social disadvantage. In the past it was standard practice to dock the tails of certain breeds of dogs however modern veterinary thinking considers this to be a cruel and unnecessary mutilation and is now an offence under new Irish Legislation.

It is legal for a vet to dock the tail of certain working breeds, if the dog is to be used for some purposes. However, both Veterinary Ireland and the Veterinary Council of Ireland have made it clear to their members that they consider tail docking to be unethical. Therefore few vets, if any, will dock the tails of any dog.

What should I do if I see a puppy’s tail docked?

Pet owners should be aware that if your new puppy’s  tail has been docked, it has been done so illegally and you should report it to the Gardaí, the ISPCA National Animal Cruelty Helpline on 1890 515 515 or other relevant authority and they will investigate and prosecute. If you have purchased a puppy that has been docked and if you did not ask for it to be docked then you have done nothing wrong and no case can be taken against you. It is not illegal to buy docked puppy or to be in possession of a docked puppy.

What is IPAAG’s position on the advertising of hunting or working dogs (including assistance dogs)

IPAAG does not see a place for the advertisement of dogs specifically for their ability to hunt or work in pet sections of advertising websites and as such does not believe that they should be included amongst pet adverts which we consider to be for companion  pets only.  Specific assistance dogs such as hearing or seeing dogs should also be dealt with by professional organisations and are not suitable in online advertiser’s pet sections.

What should I do if I see dogs being advertised in the pet section as working/ hunting/or assistance dogs?

Notify the relevant online advertiser and request that the advert is taken down or moved out of the pet section.

Are there any kinds of hunting or working activities that IPAAG deem acceptable?

IPAAG is not opposed to working activities as hobbies such as working trials which the owner and their dog may choose to take part in during their free time.  It simply does not agree with dogs being sold for their working capacity, rather than as pets.

What is the IPAAG position on the age a puppy should be sold?

A puppy should not be advertised as being suitable to be homed younger than 8 weeks old.  This time with its mother and the rest of the litter is crucial for its future development.

What is the minimum age a bitch should be before she starts producing puppies?

A bitch should not be bred from until she is a minimum of one year old.

What are the responsibilities of website providers in cases of cruelty or welfare concerns?

Those websites who adhere to the IPAAG Minimum Standards would exclude any advert where there is a reasonable concern for the health and welfare of the animal involved.  If you spot an advert that should be brought to their attention notify them straight away.

Who should I contact if I have a concern regarding cruelty or welfare of dogs contained in an advert?

Always notify the website provider to alert them of your concerns and ask them to remove the advert until further investigation can take place. If in doubt, take a note or screen print of what you’ve seen and  contact the ISPCA National Animal Cruelty Helpline on 1890 515 515 to set your mind at rest.

What tell-tale signs are there of cruelty or possible welfare issues?

Particularly malnourished dogs, poor living conditions, dogs in excessively small crates, chained or tied up, injured pets can all be tell-tale signs of possible welfare issues.

What is the law regarding the sale of imported puppies?

The PET Travel Scheme was updated in January 2012 making it much easier for dogs to be imported into Ireland at a much younger age.

How can I tell if my dog has been imported from overseas?

Always take any new dog to the vet for a health check.  The vet may be able to find signs of the dog being from overseas.  All dogs being moved between EU member states should be accompanied by a passport (issued by a vet) and should be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. It should therefore have a foreign microchip if it has been imported from another country.  Make sure the vet scans the dog and checks the microchip, using the www.europetnet.com website to identify the national microchip database where the chip is registered.

How can I tell if my dogs pet travel documents are genuine?

Your vet may be able to tell if your vaccination records etc are genuine. However it is often very difficult to identify fake documentation.

What should I do if I suspect my dog is imported either legally or illegally?

If you were unaware that your dog was from overseas and suspect foul play, immediately contact the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine or the  ISPCA National Animal Cruelty Helpline on 1890 515 515 helpline.

I’ve been told that dogs don’t need rabies vaccinations as there have been no outbreaks of rabies in UK or Ireland for over 100 years, is this true.

If you intend to travel to another EU country it is a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. Once vaccinated, you must wait 21 days before bringing the dog into another EU Member State. Rabies is a serious disease and it is not true to say there is no risk of rabies in Ireland. Over 300,000 puppies were imported into the UK in 2014 from Eastern Europe, some parts of which still have rabies present. Some of these dogs are almost certainly being brought to Ireland, so there is a risk. An outbreak of rabies in Ireland would be devastating; with stray and even pet dogs being destroyed to control the disease. Regardless of the risk it is a legal requirement.

Should all birds be banned from internet advertising?

Some species such as adult domestic poultry and pet birds such as budgies and canaries have relatively simple needs and generally make good pets.  Also, those selling them are usually knowledgeable and can advise a new owner on the bird’s requirements.

Why discourage advertising of some types of birds but allow others?

Those that are considered unsuitable to be advertised on the internet are ones that are either too young, such as chicks and ducklings, or which are only suitable to be kept as pets by experienced bird keepers, such as the larger parrots.

Wouldn’t it be better if people bought birds from breeders advertising in specialist journals rather than on the internet?

In theory yes, but there is no guarantee that those advertising in such journals are any more knowledgeable than those advertising on the internet.

How can the website owner know which birds are considered acceptable to advertise and which are not?

If in doubt, responsible website owners are encouraged to contact IPAAG for advice.

Why can’t poultry reared for human consumption be advertised?

By law birds must be slaughtered in a humane manner, and this cannot be guaranteed when selling to unknown buyers over the internet.


Why are minimum standards required for equines?

The internet creates the impression that there is a market for equines encouraging unscrupulous breeders to continue to breed for profit.  The reality is that overbreeding and overpopulation of equines in Ireland is a huge problem.  This has created a situation where equines are off loaded for very low prices, often by sellers that have little or no interest in providing for the welfare needs of the animals.

It is our hope that the minimum standards will help to address some of the issues that we identified with the online advertising of equines such as poor standards of welfare, lack of information on the history of the animal, the offloading of low value horses, dealers masquerading as private sellers, and equines being sold in foal as ‘two-for-one’ bargains.

Why not campaign for a ban on selling/advertising pets over the internet?

A number of equine welfare charities like the ISPCA, IHWT and the Donkey Sanctuary provide information for potential equine owners on what to look for and factors to consider when getting a horse, pony or donkey. It is important to ensure that consumers have the necessary knowledge to make an informed purchase that they will not regret.  This is in the best interests of both the animal and the owner.  We feel dedicated consumer awareness campaigns and the implementation of minimum standards for online advertising will be much more likely to encourage more responsible purchase and sale in the longer term than an outright ban on online advertising.

Is there any further work to be done by IPAAG to prevent equines being exploited by internet traders?

There are a number of equine-specific websites that we wish to engage with in the future.  We also want to highlight the issue of people buying cheap equines online because they want to ‘rescue’ them without fully considering the long term commitment both in terms of time and financially.

How do I know if I am buying from or selling to a dealer?

To ensure that the seller is being truthful, any potential buyer should check the equine passport for previous owners and if in doubt, contact the previous owners for the animal’s history.  If the seller does not have the passport or does not let you see that document, then do not continue with the purchase.

Selling a horse, pony or donkey can be very emotional for some owners and people sometimes sell an equine cheaply as they think it will be going to a good home or they need a quick sale for personal reasons.  There are unscrupulous individuals that will take advantage of such situations and buy the animal to sell on very quickly for a profit.  This is not good animal welfare.