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FOUR PAWS’ campaign against deceptive selling of pets online gains over 100,000 supporters


Campaigners attacked while conducting investigation on pet trade in Belgium


The Pet Deception campaign that was launched in June by the animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS celebrated a significant milestone several days ago: more than 100.000 people have already supported the initiative. Parallel to the campaign FOUR PAWS performed several investigations to discover facts of animal abuse in Europe. During one of the investigations members from FOUR PAWS were attacked by a puppy dealer. The incident happened in Belgium, a country that is known as a transit hub on the way from Eastern to Western Europe. 

The dealer went berserk after the animal welfare campaigners had discovered sick and dying puppies on his puppy farm and asked him to help the animals ( The dealer who also runs a famous Belgian website which sells animals online, insulted  and expelled the campaigners from his property. He also damaged audio equipment worth EUR 10.000 and injured one member of the team. The situation calmed down when police intervened. Now the campaigners are considering taking legal action against the dealer.


This brutal case proves the fact that puppy trading is on the rise and is a highly criminal and violent business. Though it is very difficult to estimate the exact numbers due to a lack of statistical data, it is known that the trade in illegal animals and animal products is a very lucrative activity, where tax fraud is prevalent.

On puppy farms in Eastern Europe animals will spend their entire lives in poor living conditions, being used as breeding machines to produce litter after litter for profit. They are kept in dark sheds, basements, outbuildings, confined in small pens and fed poor diets. Production costs are kept low to ensure that the breeders make big profits. Puppies are torn away from their mothers at a young age, often as young as 4 weeks old. This early separation makes them prone to both behavioral and health problems. The puppies are then transported hundreds of miles across Europe usually with fake vaccination passports and TRACES (TRAde Control and Expert System) documents. They are often sold as homebred over the Internet directly by dealers  who collect the dogs from the Eastern European transporters in the car parks near the ports or motorways.

Julie Sanders, Director of Companion Animals Department at FOUR PAWS, says: “The  illegal pet trade has grown  tremendously over the last decade and this has been helped by the Internet and the emergence of online classified ad sites. This has lead to the suffering of thousands of animals, which are kept in terrible conditions and sold online just like products at the click of a button“.  


To stop the illegal pet trade FOUR PAWS is running the Pet Deception campaign which calls on classified ad sites to implement its animal welfare measures. Based on a set of requirements developed by FOUR PAWS, the sites are ranked according to which measures they have introduced to protect animals sold on their sites. Everyone can help the cause by joining the 100,000 people that have already signed the  online petition (


Sanders: “We can see by the number of people who have already signed our petition that the illegal trading of puppies and other animals online is becoming a real concern. Still hardly any of the classified ad sites have implemented a mandatory seller verification policy or comprehensible terms of use with animal welfare measures included. We are calling on all classified ad sites  to implement  all of our measures and we are asking everyone to support our campaign by signing our petition“.


The Pet Deception international campaign is running  in several countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland and the UK.