Measures Information

Our measures have been developed to protect both animals and people. If introduced by the classified ad sites and effectively enforced they will help to ensure responsible selling and buying of pets online.

How classified ad sites have been ranked

The sites have been ranked according to which FOUR PAWS measures they have introduced to protect the animals sold on the site, and the people searching for a pet. A ranking tool has rated each site using a points system. Some measures are more important than others and are ranked higher according to how they directly impact animal welfare, site safety and site transparency. The measures are shown in order of priority.

The sites have the opportunity to improve their ranking by introducing additional FOUR PAWS measures over time which in turn will help to protect both animals and people. The sites will be evaluated at different points during the year to check on their progress.

The measures

  • Seller verification: 11 Points

    The measure:

    Sellers must register with the site and verify their identity for example with a bank account, or a similar method that excludes anonymous registration. Furthermore the site must ensure that a seller can only open and operate one seller account.

    Fewer points will be given for comparably weaker identification methods such as sending an access code to the home address, or demanding a verification by scans of official documents.

    The purpose:

    Illegal and unscrupulous sellers profit from the fact that they are able to set up multiple seller accounts as they do not have to verify their identity on the site, in most cases they only have to give an email address or phone number which can be changed for each advert. This enables commercial sellers to pose as private sellers through the opening of several different seller accounts on the site. These sellers are not regulated or inspected even though they are operating as a business selling large numbers of animals, for example, illegally bred or imported puppies. These sellers also benefit from the fact that they are able to remain anonymous and therefore cannot be traced after the sale has been completed.

  • Mandatory information: 6 Points

    The measure:

    The seller must provide the following mandatory information and this should be displayed in the advert in a set format i.e. table format.

    Mandatory information on the animal:

    Species type, breed, current age, life span, gender, country of origin, available from date, available to view with mother (puppies and kittens); along with a recent picture of the animal

    Health and documentation (according to species requirements):

    Micro chipped (ideally this will include a field in which to input the microchip number so that it is publically visible), neutered, vaccinated, vet checked, pet passport, kennel club/FCI registration, pet insurance.

    The purpose:

    Supplying a potential buyer with as much information as possible will help them make an informed decision on whether or not to take on a pet, and this in turn will increase the likelihood that an animal will receive adequate care, as well as decreasing the risk of an animal being bought on impulse. By displaying this information in a set format the buyer will be able to easily review the information, as well as being able to compare different adverts and sellers.

  • No "wanted" adverts: 6 Points

    The measure:

    The site must not allow ‘wanted’ adverts for animals for example “I search for a cheap French bulldog puppy”.

    The purpose:

    All the recommended measures can be easily circumvented by someone placing a ‘wanted’ advert. Illegal and unscrupulous animal sellers look out for these adverts so that they can sell their animals direct, without having to follow the site’s rules.

  • Checking of animal adverts: 6 Points

    The measure:

    The site must check all animal adverts before they go LIVE to ensure that they do not violate the site’s rules (terms of use) for animal sales.

    The purpose:

    As soon as an advert goes live a buyer can contact the seller. Even if someone reports the advert or the site runs automated checking, it may take a while for the ad to be identified and removed, this gives a buyer enough time to make contact with the seller so that they are able to buy the animal regardless of whether the ad has been removed or not.

    The points given for this measure relate to the points received in the measure Terms of Use (No.11)

  • Number of adverts for private sellers: 5 Points

    The measure:

    Private sellers can post a maximum of two adverts per species per year, with a maximum of three animal adverts in total per year. If the seller posts more than three adverts they must be shown as a commercial seller or as a shelter or animal rehoming centre.

    The purpose:

    People who advertise more than three adverts in total per year are likely to be commercial breeders/sellers and should therefore operate a business account and be regulated and taxed accordingly.

    * This measure is not applicable in Austria. According to §8a of the Animal Protection Act private vendors are not allowed to publicly offer animals for sale. Therefore it is prohibited for private sellers to place animal ads. 


  • Pre-sales information: 4 Points

    The measure:

    The site must provide quality pre-sale information/advice on responsibly buying and selling a pet (in particular commonly advertised companion animal species). This information should be accessible via prominent links shown in the advert.

    The purpose:

    The purpose of this measure is to help the buyer make an informed decision regarding purchasing an animal before they contact the seller. Providing quality pre-sale information on the species and its needs will also help to prevent impulse purchasing.

    Animals advertised as free

    The measure:

    There must be pre-sale information on animals which are being offered for free (this should be provided to the owner when they are submitting the ‘free to a good home’ advert)

    The purpose:

    There are a number of risks when offering an animal for free on classified ad sites which owners need to be aware of so that they can take precautionary steps to help address any risks.

  • Type of seller: 4 Points

    The measure:

    Every advert on the site must be clearly marked whether it is a private sale, commercial sale or shelter/rehoming centre adoption.

    The purpose:

    Buyers have a right to know who they are buying from and whether the seller is a commercial seller or a private breeder or a shelter/rehoming centre. The buyer can then make an informed decision as to whether to buy from the seller. For example some people may prefer not to buy a puppy from a commercial seller but to purchase a puppy from a private breeder or to adopt a puppy from a shelter/rehoming centre.

  • Additional site measures: 4 Points

    The measure:

    This measure refers to when a site has introduced measures in addition to FOUR PAWS recommended measures, which help to improve the site's security for both animals and customers.

    The purpose:

    To improve site security by introducing additional measures.

  • Enforcement of the site rules: 4 Points

    The measure:

    The site must effectively enforce its rules (terms of use), for animal sales this should include pre checking of adverts before they go live and monitoring for multiple mobile/telephone number and email addresses in private sales.

    Any illegal ads need to be reported to the relevant authority in a timely manner

    The purpose:

    It does not matter how many rules (terms of use) a site has in place, if the site does not effectively enforce them then both pets and people will be at risk. Having an effective process in place for robust checking of animal adverts is vital. This should include checking all adverts before they go live to ensure that no rules are breached so that illegal, inappropriate and misleading adverts can be removed.

    The points given for this measure relate to the points received in the measure Terms of Use (No.11).

  • Report button: 3 Points

    The measure:

    The site must provide a report button (functionality) so that buyers and the general public can report an advert. A link to the site rules (terms of use) should also be placed next to the report button.

    The purpose:

    This will help to ensure that anyone wishing to report an advert can easily do so. They will also be able to quickly check if the advert has violated the site rules.

  • Site rules: 3 Points

    The measure:

    The site must have a list of site rules (terms of use) for animal sales, as well as a clear policy on animal welfare on its site. The rules and policy must be easily accessible to the seller and buyer. The site rules must clearly indicate to the seller that the following animals are not allowed for sale on the site. These rules must be accessible via a link in all adverts so that the public can also easily view the rules.

    - Animals below a minimum age: dogs/cats under 8 weeks, rabbits: 6w; guinea pigs, rats, mice: 4w; ferrets 10w; birds/reptiles that are not fully self sufficient

    - Puppies and kittens which cannot be viewed at the breeders/sellers house with their mother

    - Animals that are sold to be imported or exported for a profit (Exemption: verified rescue organizations and stray animal organizations)

    - Animals advertised as must go within a certain period or as urgent

    - Animals advertised for delivery either by the seller or through a postal/shipping courier service (national and international).

    - Primates

    - Wild caught animals

    - Protected species and endangered species

    - Animals which are banned by legislation

    - Live animals as pet food or human food

    - Animals in season or pregnant or for breeding purposes

    - Animals for ‘rent’ or ‘loan’

    - Animals advertised for fighting, working, hunting, racing, guarding

    - Animals with docked tails and cropped/clipped ears/clipped wings

    - Animals with any reference to being sold as a gift i.e. for Christmas or Easter

    - Animals for swapping with other pets, products or services

    - Photos in the Ad which are demeaning to an animal or compromise an animal’s welfare 

    - Private persons may not exceed the maximum of two ads per species per year (can be one litter in one ad), and a total of 3 animal ads per year, beyond this number the seller should be registered as either a commercial entity or an animal shelter

    - The ad is live for a limited period of 2 months

    - Sellers and buyers of animals must be over 18 years of age

    - Sellers have to verify their identity, the platform will not accept anonymity for animal sales

    - Sellers can open no more than one seller account

    - The platform actively traces, and prohibits, sellers that attempt to open multiple accounts

    - The platform reports illegal activities and animal welfare concerns to the relevant authorities

    - User data will be provided to authorities on request

    The purpose:

    These rules have been introduced to help improve animal welfare and to protect animals sold on the site.  By making the rules easily accessible to both the seller and the public, any adverts which are breaking the rules can be easily identified and reported.

    Animal welfare policy:

    To demonstrate to the public that a site is committed to protecting animals sold on its platform the site should have in place an animal welfare policy clearly outlining the steps it has taken to facilitate the responsible selling and buying of animals on its site.

  • Seller activity: 2 Points

    The measure:

    The site must have a ‘reveal’ button to see all animal ads the seller has on the site.

    The purpose:

    This measure enables the buyer to see the type of seller by the number of adverts the seller has on the site at any one time. For example if a seller is marked as a private seller but is selling a number of different breeds of puppies on the site then it is highly likely that they are in fact a commercial seller and should be marked as such. The buyer can then make an informed decision as to whether to buy from that seller.

  • Selling period: 1 Point

    The measure:

    Animal adverts must only go live for a limited period – 2 months maximum.

    The purpose:

    Adverts should expire after a certain time. An illegal seller whose advert is still live can be contacted by potential buyers because his contact details are still available. Publically the seller may appear as having only one advert but the seller can still trade via this advert by stating in the ad that 'this puppy is gone, but I have others'.

  • Sorting by price: 1 Point

    The measure:

    The site must not allow sorting of animal adverts by price.

    The purpose:

    The buying decision of an animal should not be based on price; often lower priced animals have been poorly bred and kept to allow them to be sold cheaper. This comprises an animal’s welfare.

  • Accepting site rules: 1 Point

    The measure:

    It is essential that the site has in place a list of site rules (FOUR PAWS recommended measures) which the seller must acknowledge.

    The purpose:

    These rules have been introduced to help improve animal welfare and to protect animals sold on the site. By making the rules easily accessible to both the seller and the public, any adverts which are breaking the rules can be easily identified and reported. By accepting the rules the seller has shown that they acknolwedge these are the requirements of operating on the site.

    The points given for this measure relate to the points received in the measure Terms of Use (No.11).