'Petfished' campaign for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Agency: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The UK is a nation of pet lovers. But as we buy our pets in droves, do we always know who we're buying them from? There's a thriving underground trade that's putting our pets in danger.

The government introduced a ban on third party sales, known as Lucy's Law in 2020, to address the mistreatment of puppies and kittens kept and sold by third parties. The campaign needed to make prospective buyers aware that there are deceitful sellers who mistreat pets for profits.

In-depth research to understand the issue revealed our strategic proposition for behavioural change: deceitful sellers are hard to spot and harm animals. Always research the seller before you get in touch. This challenged assumptions and highlighted the risks associated with low-welfare bred pets, including diseases and premature death.

We needed to raise awareness of a nuanced issue that many didn't know was happening, so we coined the phrase 'Petfished' - a variation on the well-understood practice of 'catfishing' - pretending to be somebody else online. This was brought to life through documentary-style case studies, partnerships, social media, influencers and PR.

We secured over 100 pieces of coverage and support from 14 talent and influencers. We also secured ample support and amplification from the pet and vets industry. Recent polling of prospective pet owners revealed that the campaign contributed to doubling awareness of low-welfare pet sellers and generated an increase in confidence to recognise the signs of a deceitful seller when looking to buy/adopt a cat, dog, puppy or kitten.