Reporting illegal & unlicensed trade

What should I do if…

I think some one is trading as a pet shop illegally either from a bricks and mortar or electronic site

Firstly, you need to remember that only selling vertebrates eg fish is covered by legislation eg for pet shop licensing or animal welfare.

Try to find out an address from which the ‘enterprise’ is operating and any other information you can gather, such as a mobile phone number or adverts either in hard copy or electronic form.

You’ll need the address to identify which local licensing authority you should lodge a complaint with. Once you know the area where they operate go to the relevant local authority website and search for pet shop licensing, licensing department or environmental health department (failing that use its general council contact details).

Send an email or letter providing the evidence you have. Ask for an update on proceedings and if you’ve heard nothing for two weeks send a prompt.

To find local authorities and their contact details:

If you are convinced the ‘enterprise’ is passing itself off as a business you could also try reporting them for tax evasion if you think they are not telling HMRC about business profits.

Tax Evasion Hotline

Tel: 0800 788 887 (Mon to Fri 8am to 6pm)

Report online here

I think someone is importing fish illegally

(this could be fish not on the ILFA list or cold water fish from the Continent)

Report to the Fish Health Inspectorate


Tel: 01305 20670 (Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm)

I think someone is trading in CITES listed species (eg hard corals, seahorses, clams or Asian Arrowana) illegally

If you’re not sure if it’s legal you can check with Animal & Plant Health Agency’s CITES (endangered species) team on


Tel: 03000 200 301

If you remain concerned then gather your evidence (eg screen shots or photocopies of ads) and report the matter to Border Force Customs Hotline


Tel: 0800 595 000

You can also report suspected illegal activity anonymously on Crimestoppers

Tel: 0800 555111

I think people are selling banned fish species

For England and Wales you can report this to the Fish Health Inspectorate


Tel: 01305 206700 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

I think people are selling illegal plants or pest species, like Apple Snails

You can report these to the following organisations – try to provide evidence in the form of photos or screengrabs as well as full details of the retailer.

For England and Wales, contact your local APHA Plant Health and Seeds Inspector, or the PHSI headquarters, in York:


Tel: 01904 405138


For Scotland, contact the Scottish Government’s Horticulture and Marketing Unit:


Tel: 0131 244 8935


For Northern Ireland, contact the DARD Plant Health Inspection Branch:


Tel: 0300 200 7847


I think people are selling illegal species on Facebook Groups

Again you can report the matter to Border Force Customs Hotline with your evidence (see above).

And you can also report the group to Facebook. This is what Facebook says about its policy on selling through Facebook groups.

“Our policies do not allow the trade of animals using our commerce products. Our commerce policies apply to all commerce products on Facebook – For Sale Groups, Pages with a shop tab, and Facebook Marketplace. Additionally, we do not allow the sale of endangered species on our site. Furthermore, we do not allow criminal organisations who may be involved in the smuggling or trade of endangered animals to have a presence on Facebook.

“All groups, like all content on Facebook, are subject to our Community Standards, regardless of whether they are public or closed. All groups on Facebook can be reported to us, using the report button. If you cannot see all of the content in a group due to its closed nature but suspect that the group may contain sales of endangered species, we will undertake a review of that group and remove any content that violates our Community Standards.

“Our enforcement activity is comprehensive. For example, where we see that someone is an administrator of multiple groups that are all engaged in criminal activity then we may shut down all of those groups on the basis of a single report.”

You can find more about how to report a Facebook Group here

OATA is also interested to hear about these groups as well because we often provide evidence to the Pet Advertising Advisory Group. Email details to us on

I think someone is trading illegal veterinary medicines? (Especially fish treatments)

Report any information you have about suspected illegal medicines and breaches of the Veterinary Medicines Regulations:


For further information on how to report suspected illegal medicines see:

If you are unsure as to what is legal or not check:

I think someone is importing GM fish

Report your evidence to GM Inspections


I think I’ve seen an invasive species

There are a number of ways you can report invasive species, including a number of smartphone apps. Find more here