It has become increasingly common for Australians to buy animals online through classified ad sites, especially breeds considered ‘designer’ animals and which therefore attract a high dollar value. This demand has given rise to unscrupulous animal breeders, known as ‘puppy farmers’, who use animals as breeding machines with a focus on producing a high number of litters every year, only to be sold online.
With thousands of animals advertised online on any given day, this is a major industry with little to no animal welfare regulation.
There is no way to tell where these animals come from, how they are treated, or where they will end up. Urgent changes are needed to help protect the welfare of thousands of animals in Australia.
Animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS Australia is urging people to contact classified ad sites and request them to end the anonymous selling of animals.
Classified ad sites can do this in three simple steps, including introducing verification of the seller's identity, allowing only one seller account per person and per platform (to prevent the opening of several user accounts under different fake names), and limiting the number of animal ads for private sellers.
It is in the hands of global companies such as eBay, which owns 11 classified ad sites around the world (including Gumtree Australia), to make these changes and lead the way to protect animals and new Australian pet owners who may unwittingly purchase sick animals.
“Poor regulations have allowed many classified ads sites to become a safe haven for puppy farmers in Australia. The booming trade with young dogs is a serious problem. Animals can be bought at the click of a button, which leads to impulse purchases and high abandonment rates.”
Elise Burgess, Head of Communications at FOUR PAWS Australia
FOUR PAWS Australia is also calling on online platforms to adopt recommended animal welfare standards. This includes important criteria such as not selling puppies or kittens under eight weeks of age, not allowing animals to be swapped for other items, and not allowing animals to be sold for breeding purposes.
“We are sure that sites enabling the online trade of animals will soon appreciate the benefits of adopting these best practice guidelines. Consumers as well as animal lovers will be reassured to know that the site with which they are dealing meets stringent requirements,” says Elise.
Puppy farming is a problem all over Australia. In Queensland this month, it was reported that people are breeding puppies in appalling conditions to fund dog fighting, using puppy farming practices to breed and sell ‘designer’ animals. Meanwhile, consumers across the country are also falling victim to puppy farming-related scams.
NSW Police have issued warnings about online scams in which classified ads offer a puppy including freight to the victim’s home for a cheap price – only for no dog to arrive after the victim sends money. Police took to social media in October this year to urge people not to fall for the scam.
There are easy ways for people looking for a new furry family member to avoid being cheated.
“At FOUR PAWS Australia, we strongly advocate for adoption. Choosing to adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue group not only saves the life of that animal, but also positively contributes to the ongoing fight against animal overpopulation and homelessness.”
- Always visit a reputable and licensed breeder, and ask to see their licence.
- Check they have the correct paperwork for an animal.
- Ask lots of questions! A reputable breeder should always be happy to not only answer your questions but offer ongoing support before and after you choose an animal with them.
- Spend time with an animal before buying to ensure they are comfortable with you and have the right temperament for you and your household.
- Check the animal's health and surrounding area, are they well cared for?
- Make sure the puppy is at least eight weeks old before they leave their mother, and that they are fully vaccinated.
- If the breeder won't let you view the puppy with their mother and the rest of the litter, walk away
- Avoid buying animals through advertisements, newspapers, online and through some pet shops.
FOUR PAWS is an international animal protection organisation with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organisation strives to help animals in need through work which is based on substantiated research and scientific expertise, as well as national and international lobbying. FOUR PAWS focuses on animals who suffer under human influence: stray animals, animals used in fashion, companion animals, wild animals and farmed animals.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Kosovo, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Vietnam, FOUR PAWS aims to help animals in need directly and quickly. www.four-paws.org.au