Classified information: what's lacking from online herpetofauna sales

Helen Tedds, Simon Sneddon, Ros Clubb, Jeff Ollerton, Enriko Iskhakov, Wanda McCormick

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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In the last decade there has been a massive rise in the number of animals being sold via online classified websites, with herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) being no exception. In response to growing concerns regarding irresponsible advertising, the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) was established to ensure animals are sold legally and ethically, thus aiming to safeguard animal welfare and enhance consumer confidence. It works by encouraging classified websites to become members, thereby agreeing to 26 rules regarding advert content and self-regulating information that sellers provide based on these rules. It also relies on volunteers for spot-checking adverts, however, with thousands of adverts uploaded every day, it can be hard for both PAAG and its members to identify any violations of the rules. Adverts selling herpetofauna were downloaded from three PAAG member classified websites every week throughout 2019 (n=26,378) and checked against 13 relevant PAAG rules using an SQL database and a bespoke Expert System software. Violations of 12 PAAG rules were found across the three member websites which involved 7986 individual adverts. Violations included the selling of banned invasive species (e.g. Trachemys scripta scripta), false information on the need for an Article 10 certificate, commercial sellers not displaying their council licence number, the selling of animals with health issues or in a gravid state, animals offered for swapping, and the selling of DWA animals without mentioning the need for a licence. There were also adverts that did not specify the species for sale (n= 371), but rather labelled the animal at taxon or class level, and in one concerning case just labelled the animal for sale as ‘pet’. Member websites were also spot-checked for whether they had prominent links to PAAG buying advice and approved care information, with no websites meeting both these requirements. The only PAAG rule met by each website was that they had clear links on how to report an advert that caused concern. Overall, these findings show that PAAG is having a positive impact on classified sales with 70% of adverts meeting PAAG rules, but due to the sheer number of adverts some violations are still slipping through. Recommendations would be for member sites to invest in a software solution to flag key words and frequent sellers, and / or require sellers to include more information via mandatory fields when uploading adverts. Further promotion of PAAG for public awareness would also be of benefit.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021
EventUFAW- Recent advances in animal welfare science VIII: Virtual Animal Welfare Conference -
Duration: 29 Jun 202130 Jun 2021


ConferenceUFAW- Recent advances in animal welfare science VIII: Virtual Animal Welfare Conference


  • Reptile
  • Pet animals
  • Pet trade
  • exotic pets
  • amphibians


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