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New clampdown on online pet adverts

A puppy offered as a swap for a mobile phone and a tortoise in exchange for a watch are two examples of shocking online adverts that an animal watchdog is clamping down on.

Thousands of adverts for pets are listed on the internet each day and the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) is setting out a number of minimum standards that websites must comply with to improve both the animals' welfare and to protect members of the public from the risk of ending up with sick, dangerous or even illegal creatures.

Other online adverts for animals that the group discovered were a golden retriever wanted in exchange for a chihuahua while an Arctic fox and four marmoset monkeys were offered for sale.

A very rare cross breed between a zebra and a donkey - a zonkey - pitbulls, which are illegal to sell in the UK, and a cat in need of severe veterinary treatment due to a badly damaged eye whose owner wanted to get rid of it were also available to be bought on the internet.

PAAG, which is comprised of representatives from the UK's leading animal welfare groups and specialist agencies, is working with the Government to remind consumers and websites that an animal is not a commodity like a washing machine or a car, and should not be advertised or bought in the same way.

Websites in compliance with the standards will be identifiable to consumers on the PAAG website as the ethical and safer choice when deciding to find a pet online.

The group is encouraging the public to stay vigilant to ensure that websites meet the standards consistently, and not to use sites that do not apply the minimum standards.

Clarissa Baldwin, chairwoman of PAAG, said: "Whilst we recognise that pets are commonly advertised online, it is still shocking to know that there are between 100,000 and 120,000 pet advertisements appearing on UK websites each day. The research undertaken by PAAG has revealed some truly terrible examples where animal welfare was clearly the last thought in the mind of the advertiser.

"Every day we hear from people who have bought an animal online only for it to fall sick or die soon after. We hope that the minimum standards will be just that, a minimum standard that a website must reach before posting advertisements for pets. In an ideal world we would prefer people not to buy pets online but would advise that if you are doing so that you check the website adheres to PAAG's minimum standards."

Animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said: "It is vitally important that advertising websites do all they can to ensure the welfare of animals sold on their sites and to prevent the sale of banned breeds. I fully support PAAG's minimum standards and would encourage all advertising websites to sign up to these."

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