Horse and pet owners have been asked to report inappropriate, misleading or illegal online adverts after a crackdown by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group. The PAAG has been instrumental in the removal of over 100,000 inappropriate, misleading or illegal online adverts in a period of just six months.

It’s great news and should help eradicate evils such as puppy farming and the illegal selling of endangered species. I hope it will also make it harder for people to advertise horses who are being treated badly – and for naive or irresponsible owners to abdicate their responsibilities.

You don’t have to search hard to find these sort of adverts. Some, such as those for horses and ponies who are being ridden or driven long before they are mature enough to work, must result from ignorance, cruelty or both.

But there are others, too. We’ve all seen the adverts for horses which have been placed by owners who seem to be ducking out of responsibilities. Sometimes, you get the impression that the horse has no future and no real quality of life, but the owner won’t take that final decision.

Perhaps some of those advertised as “free to a good home” or for peanuts do find caring homes where they can be companions. Unfortunately, there have been too many cases where horses have been handed over, only to be re-advertised for sale or entered in an auction with no reserve.

This 18-months-old filly has a responsible owner. Other youngsters are not so lucky.

Does getting website owners to withdraw inappropriate adverts do any good? In some cases, perhaps. A friend spotted an eighteen-months-old filly advertised as a “safe ride and drive pony” and contacted a leading equine charity. The advertiser was visited and advised that this was a welfare issue though for various reasons, couldn’t be prosecuted.

The advert was withdrawn by the website, but next time the charity’s inspector visited the vendor, the filly had been sold on. We can only hope that she went to a better home.

Realistically, the PAAG can only do so much, but getting website providers to sharpen up their act must be a good thing. They should all sign up to the group’s DEFRA-endorsed minimum standards scheme, which asks them to spot and remove offending adverts.

If you see such an advert, don’t ignore it. Contact and ask them to look into it.

And if you’re tempted to advertise your horse as “free to a good home” – please don’t. If a horse doesn’t have monetary value, it isn’t hard to set up a loan agreement and, if the loan home proves to be successful, there’s nothing to stop you signing him over after an appropriate period if you think that’s appropriate. Anyone who keeps a horse for six months is less likely to make a quick buck, which should deter the most unscrupulous con merchants.

What if you can’t find him a home? Don’t expect a charity to take him – they’re overflowing with genuine rescue cases – but do ask someone like World Horse Welfare or the Blue Cross for advice. In some cases, the answer might be hard to take, but you’ll know you did the best for your horse.