Animal charities have launched new “minimum standards” they hope all websites selling horses and pets will adopt to stop the number of unsuitable adverts being placed online.

A horse being offered in exchange for a motorbike, a partially blind pony being given away and a Shetland stallion advertised as a “lawnmower” were some of the worst examples highlighted by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG).

“The research has revealed some truly terrible examples where animal welfare was clearly the last thought in the mind of the advertiser,” said Clarissa Baldwin, chairman of PAAG.

PAAG has been working with websites, such as Gumtree and Preloved, over the past two years to get their systems to a point where they can apply the new standards.

Ian Buzer, managing director of Preloved, told H&H: “The site has already adopted the minimum standards released by PAAG.

“Preloved has a robust system in place which asks sellers specific questions relating to any equestrian adverts they post.”

Welfare charities hope that better advertising standards will lead to fewer cases of horses being sold to inappropriate homes.

“They [horses] need specialist facilities and care from knowledgeable and experienced people,” said Kath Urwin from the Blue Cross. “It’s unethical to treat them as cheap or even disposable commodities as many of these advertisements do.”

The addition of the new requirements for online adverts has been backed by Defra.

Lord de Mauley, Minister for Animal Welfare at the Department for Environment, said: “I fully support PAAG’s minimum standards and would encourage all advertising websites to sign up to these.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (12 September 2013).