Finding pets online: how to safeguard animal welfare

Finding pets online: how to safeguard animal welfare

If you’re thinking about getting a puppy, there’s a good chance you will begin your search online. As with all internet shopping, it’s important to do your research first when buying a pet online. Read on to learn about 5 things you can do to make sure that the puppy you choose has been bred in a kind and caring environment, and find out what Pets4Homes is doing to drive improvements in animal welfare.

Can you see the puppies’ mother?

Since the introduction of a new law called Lucy’s Law, puppies under the age of six months can now only be sold directly by the breeder. Always make sure you will be able to see the puppies with their mother - and if possible, the father too. Not being able to see the puppies’ mother -for example, being told that she is at the vet or at another house - could be a sign that the puppies have not been bred by the advertiser.

At Pets4Homes, we require all puppy sellers to include a photograph of the mother together with the puppies in their advertisement and to confirm that they are the breeder.

Ask questions before you visit a litter of puppies

Before you arrange to visit a litter of puppies, you should speak to the seller first. Ask about where the puppies have been bred and raised and if the seller has been following a socialisation plan to prepare the puppies for life in their new homes. You should also check what age the puppies will be when sold - by law they must be at least 8 weeks old - and that they will be microchipped. Again, it is a legal requirement for puppies to be microchipped by the time they are 8 weeks old and before they go to their new homes.

At Pets4Homes we require the advertiser to list the age of the puppy and the date they will be ready to be rehomed.

Always see the puppies in the place where they were bred and raised

When you visit a litter of puppies, make sure it is where they were bred and raised. Be suspicious if there are signs that the property is not in common use or there are other dogs or litters of puppies on the premises.

Take your time when meeting the puppies and don’t feel rushed into making a decision to rehome one. Look for signs that the puppies have a close bond with the seller and are confident, inquisitive and appear healthy. Check to see that they have clear, bright eyes and clean ears, clean teeth and pink gums, shiny, soft fur, a clean bottom and no sign of fleas.

Never part with money for a puppy that you haven’t seen in the flesh - and always use the Pets4Homes Safety Deposit Service to protect yourself from scammers.

Licensed breeder or individual seller?

By law, anyone who breeds and sells puppies as a business must be licensed by the local authority. In England and Wales, this applies to anyone who breeds more than three litters a year; in Scotland, it is five litters a year. To be licensed, a breeder must meet certain animal welfare standards, which include not selling puppies before they are 8 weeks old and using a socialisation plan to prepare the puppies for life in their new home.

An individual seller is someone who is selling a litter of puppies they have bred, but they do not breed and sell puppies as a business, for example, their pet dog has had a litter of puppies. When getting a puppy, always check that the breeder or seller is who they say they are - if you suspect that someone who claims to be an individual seller is actually running a business selling puppies, please report the advertiser.

At Pets4Homes we make it easy for buyers to identify if an advert has been placed by a breeder or an individual seller and have put extra checks in place to prevent unscrupulous puppy sellers from placing advertisements with us.

If something doesn’t seem right... report it!

When talking to a seller or visiting a litter of puppies, if something doesn’t feel right, or you have any concerns about the welfare of the puppies, please report it.

Pets4Homes is the largest pet classifieds website in the UK and we take animal welfare very seriously. We actively seek to identify and remove adverts placed by unscrupulous sellers or puppy farmers and reject a significant number of adverts for these reasons. We work with a range of animal welfare organisations and charities as well as the Pet Advertising Advisory Group to help end poor breeding practices and educate the public about what to look for when buying a pet.

In summary, you should do lots of research to make sure that the puppy you choose has been bred and raised in a loving, caring environment; and you can help us to improve animal welfare by emailing us at to let us know of any concerns you have about the welfare of puppies advertised on our website.



Pets for StudWanted Pets

Accessories & services


Knowledge Hub


Support & Safety Portal
All Pets for Sale