When you get a new pet you may decide to get it from a shelter, a local breeder, a pet shop, or you may choose to buy it online through a classified ad site. That last option comes with risks that buyers might not be fully aware of.

International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS carried out research on 42 classified ad sites and found evidence of sites offering illegally imported puppies, banned breeds, and endangered and wild caught species.

The following were all uncovered by the charity, allowed to happen due to a lack of proper regulation: a puppy being swapped for a smart phone, a pit bull advertised illegally for professional dog fighting, illegally imported puppies from Lithuania, an unwanted pregnant monkey, wild boar being advertised to train hunting dogs, an endangered ring-tailed lemur for sale as a pet and a parrot being swapped for a lap top.

Countries included in the research were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, and the UK.

To combat the problem the charity have developed an online tool which can be accessed at petdeception.org. The tool ranks the sites according to a set of measures designed to safeguard and protect the animals sold on them.

“With our international campaign FOUR PAWS wants to stop this ‘pet deception’,” says Julie Sanders, international director of companion animals department at FOUR PAWS, “As part of the campaign we have developed an online tool which ranks the more commonly used classified ad sites to show the public which sites could be putting them, and indeed the animals, at risk. We have [also] developed a set of recommended measures and are calling on global brands to lead the way in protecting animals and people by adopting them.”

There is an online petition which calls on these global brands, like eBay Classified Group, to adopt these measures.

To learn more about the campaign visit the Pet Deception campaign website.