dogs by the river

Pet Breeding, Trade and Traceability: Challenges and the way ahead

A workshop organised by FOUR PAWS gathered decision-makers to discuss pet trade challenges and the implementation of the VeriPet system 


On January 25th, FOUR PAWS, together with the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU hosted an event on ‘Pet Breeding, Trade and Traceability: Challenges and the way ahead’, attended by stakeholders and decision-makers within the European Union, including a panel of high-level speakers representing DG SANTE (European Commission), European Parliament, the DSPCA, FVE, the Irish Department of Agriculture and Europetnet, among others.  

Participants were united in stating that illegal pet trade is a serious problem in Europe. Speakers highlighted the need for identification and registration of companion animals, traceability of animals’ origins and changes of ownership, reliable data on pet registration databases and verification of information for dogs offered for sale online. They also discussed the challenges in enforcement, technical tools for tackling the illegal trade, the roles of institutions and veterinarians in ensuring the traceability of companion animals and contributing to better animal welfare of the animals offered for sale.   

Joe Moran presenting

Joe Moran, Director European Policy Office, FOUR PAWS

CVO presenting

Dr Martin Blake, Chief Veterinary Officer, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Ireland

Manuela Ripa presenting

MEP Manuela Ripa, European Parliament

Europetnet presenting

Dr Finbarr Heslin, FIDO & Europetnet

One of the main solutions presented as part of the workshop, was the technical system VeriPet.  

In 2021, FOUR PAWS together with Europetnet, launched a new technical solution to illegal online puppy trade using the FOUR PAWS Model Solution called VeriPet. It was first implemented in Ireland in August 2021 by the classified ad site, which implemented the 2-step verification process on more than 15,000 verified ads.  

After launching VeriPet in Ireland, in May 2022 FOUR PAWS and Europetnet launched the technical system VeriPet in Switzerland together with the Swiss national dog registration database Amicus and the classified ad site  

How VeriPet works

When placing an advertisement on a participating classified ad site, the seller needs to go through a 2-step verification process. As a first step, the seller needs to provide the dog’s microchip number along with their mobile phone number or email. VeriPet will then carry out an automated check with pet registration databases, via Europetnet. If the details match, a one-time code is sent to the registered owner of the dog. Only after the code is checked, can the ad go live. 

This means that only the person registered as owner of the dog on the database will be permitted to place an ad to sell that particular dog. 

The innovative solution to stop illegal puppy trade

Key takeaways

As the European Commission will come up with four new legislative proposals on animal welfare, the timing of this workshop was key. Having discussed the severity of illegal pet trade and its consequences on animal welfare, health, consumer protection, and tax fraud, the presentation of a technical solution was well received by key decision makers and stakeholders present at the workshop.  

For an effective regulation of online pet trade, a harmonized system of data collection and sharing is of outmost importance. 

Fighting the illegal pet trade

As part of its fight against illegal pet trade, FOUR PAWS maintains its victim reporting tool available for witnesses and victims of illegal pet trade. In 2022 there more than 1000 cases submitted, which were followed up by the team and led to multiple investigations in collaboration with the authorities across the countries where FOUR PAWS operates.  

Further, FOUR PAWS has campaigned for better and stronger regulation of pet trade, to effectively limit illegal pet trade from the online market. The Digital Services Act (DSA) has thus acknowledged the online pet trade as a matter of concern that needs to be addressed. It also includes strengthened requirements for verification of data on online platforms against available databases, which could be a very important step towards ending the anonymity of online puppy traders as well. 

Tracing the Trade: The FOUR PAWS Model Solution

Tracing the Trade: The FOUR PAWS Model Solution

Read our Model Solution for full traceability Across the European puppy trade

VeriPet - making the online puppy trade safer

VeriPet - making the online puppy trade safer

Read our technical solution to illegal online puppy trade

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