Dame Judi Dench and Ricky Gervais call on eBay to regulate online puppy trade  

FOUR PAWS prompts eBay to implement measures against the cruel illegal puppy trade on their classified ad sites


Dame Judi Dench, Ricky Gervais, Matt Lucas and Joanna Lumley are just some of the celebrities who have signed a letter – initiated by international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS – calling on eBay to introduce measures to prevent illegal puppy dealers from using its classified ad sites. eBay Inc. owns ten online classified brands around the world, including Gumtree. FOUR PAWS has been campaigning over the last year for eBay to address the illegal puppy trade taking place on its classified sites by introducing specific measures. These measures include mandatory seller identity verification, which would enable law enforcers to track down unscrupulous puppy dealers.

Christmas is peak puppy-buying season, with thousands of puppies sold via classified ad sites during the festive period. “An estimated 2.4 million dogs are traded each year across eBay’s European classified ad sites alone. Many of these puppies come from overcrowded and unhygienic puppy farms and are often sold with fraudulent paperwork. These puppies are frequently ill due to the conditions in which they are bred, and some will not even survive until Christmas. We encourage everyone to fully research who they are buying from and to insist on seeing the mother dog, as well as the breeder’s premises. However, still better is to adopt a rescue dog from a local shelter, rather than buying a puppy online and risk supporting the cruel puppy trade,” advises Joanna Randall, International Head of Companion Animal Campaigns at FOUR PAWS.

Inadequate control online

Anonymity remains a central problem on eBay’s classified sites. After a successful transaction, the puppy dealers can simply delete their accounts, become untraceable and then open several new accounts. This enables animal cruelty to remain hidden, but also presents severe danger to eBay’s reputation as its customers fall victim to these criminals. FOUR PAWS points to mounting evidence that shows eBay’s classified sites, such as eBay Kleinanzeigen in Germany, and Marktplaats in the Netherlands, provide platforms for puppy dealers with easy access to buyers and severely inadequate controls: “According to eBay Kleinanzeigen usage policies, it is forbidden to publish more than one dog ad per year as a private seller. Yet four out of ten of the sellers we researched put more than one ad online and were selling puppies on a commercial level, although advertising as private sellers,” Randall explains.

Gumtree UK sets a precedent

In August 2018, Gumtree UK set a precedent as the first eBay-owned classified ad site to establish a mandatory paywall for all animal sales. This requires pet sellers to provide credit card or banking details before being allowed to advertise, which effectively enables seller identity verification. Gumtree UK introduced this to deter unscrupulous puppy dealers. Randall adds: “We are delighted that Gumtree UK have taken this step and recognise the importance of verifying seller identities. However, Gumtree’s sister sites, for example in South Africa and Australia, are yet to make the same move, as are eBay’s other classified ad sites.”

Over 210,000 petition signatures

A petition demanding eBay to stop enabling the puppy mafia was signed by over 210,000 animal welfare supporters and sent to the CEO of eBay’s global head office on 13 December along with the letter and a film produced by FOUR PAWS. “People all over the world have learned about the cruel illegal puppy trade, and the role that classified ad sites play in helping to facilitate it due to anonymous trading. Now there is an opportunity for eBay to make a stand for puppies sold via their classified ad sites by implementing seller identity verification and enforcing stricter animal welfare measures across all their classified ad sites,” Randall urges.

For more information on the FOUR PAWS #ThankseBay campaign go to www.thanksebay.com

List of letter signees:

Dame Judi Dench, Actress

Peter Egan, Actor

Ricky Gervais, Comedian, Actor, Writer and Director

Paul O’Grady MBE, Entertainer and Television/Radio presenter

Matt Lucas, Actor and Writer

Joanna Lumley, Actress, Author and Activist

Marc Abraham BCM&S MRCVS, Television Presenter & Practicing Vet. Founder of Pup Aid

Prof. Thomas Blaha, Chairman of Tierärztliche Vereinigung e.V. (TVT)

Prof. Dr. Klaus Buchner, MEP, EU Parliament Brussels

Wolfgang Dohne, President of FECAVA – Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations

Bas Eickhout, Member of European Parliament, party: GroenLinks

Frank Futselaar, Member of the Dutch Parliament, party: SP

Sacha Gaus, Owner ‘Martin Gaus dog academy’

Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals

Edgar van de Kamp, Manager ‘Martin Gau dog academy’

Udo Kopernik, Board of Public Relations VHD

Oliver Krischer, German politician and member of the German House of Representatives

Rafael Laguens, President of FVE – Federation of Veterinarians of Europe

Philip McCreight, Leader of Tasso

Gabriel Paun, EU Director Animals International

Karsten Plücker, Chairman of Bund gegen Missbrauch der Tiere e.V.

Judith Sargentini, Member of the European Parliament, party: GroenLinks

Dr. Barbara Schöning, 1st Chairperson of Gesellschaft für Tierverhaltensmedizin und –therapie

Dr. Renate Sommer, Member of the European Parliament

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FOUR PAWS Press contact 

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications


M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au

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