Websites like Gumtree in the U.K. and Craigslist in the U.S. are hugely popular outlets for the sale and rehoming of animals, particularly cats and dogs. But what many people do not realise when they post or answer an ad about a pet online, is that such websites provide a convenient, untraceable and often free source of animals for breeding, resale, use as bait in dog fights, or for some depraved individuals, much, much worse. Those that rehome via these websites are often unaware of the danger that they are putting their animals in, while those that buy do not realise that they are inadvertently supporting an outlet allowing the irresponsible and exploitative sale of animals to thrive, and contributing to the dog and cat overpopulation crisis that is the very reason for the existence of 'high kill' shelters. Here are three reasons to never adopt, buy, sell or rehome an animal online, but to seek out the services of your local animal shelter instead.
1) They're Defenseless No matter how big the dog or how vicious the cat, an animal has little defense against a person with bad intentions. They have no means of vocalizing the wrongs committed against them, and are scarcely protected by the law - animal cruelty legislation is woefully insufficient pretty much worldwide. Animals are preyed upon by people with sick or violent desires for these very reasons, and a wealth of documentation exists suggesting that many psychopaths have a history of torturing animals.
It is also well known within the rescue community that animals advertised online provide dog fighting rings with a steady supply of 'bait'. These unfortunate animals, often puppies or kittens who are bound to prevent escape, are sacrificed to dogs destined for the fighting ring, used as a means to acclimatize them to brutality. It's impossible to know the scale of this problem; with no-one monitoring the fate of animals bought online, they simply vanish.
Last year Jason Brown, of Reno, Nevada, was discovered with the dismembered and mutilated bodies of five dogs in his hotel room. At least two of these dogs were known to have been ‘adopted’ via Craiglist, from a lady who had advertised them as ‘free to a good home’ with the best of intentions. The processes and checks put in place by animal shelters for potential adopters make it far more difficult and inconvenient for such sick individuals to access animals, whilst the internet provides no barriers for them at all.
2) Buying Online Encourages Spur of the Moment Pet Ownership
A dog or a cat is potentially a 10 - 20 year commitment, and therefore not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Not only must one put a great deal of thought into the decision to get a pet, it's also important to select an animal with the right temperament and set of of needs for your individual lifestyle. Animal shelters have a wealth of expertise and experience and can help guide adopters in making the right match for both human and pet. This is especially vital for families with young children, as not all dogs and cats are comfortable and safe around kids.
There is no such guidance available when adopting or buying online however, and often people are drawn to high maintenance pedigrees and exotic breeds for whom they cannot offer a suitable home. In a few weeks or months when this becomes apparent, these animals will be abandoned either on the streets, or in already overflowing animal shelters.
3) Buying Online Contributes to an Overpopulation Crisis
The internet is a haven for unregulated or 'backyard breeders', who breed animals for profit and in the case of puppy mills, in deplorable, sub-standard conditions, with inadequate, filthy housing and little veterinary care. If this wasn't reason enough to avoid the online pet marketplace, breeders can be harmful not only to the dogs and cats through whom they line their pockets, but to dogs and cats everywhere.
There is currently a massive dog and cat population crisis in Europe, in the US, and in fact, in much of the world, which is the result of a lack of neutering, irresponsible pet ownership - as mentioned above - and of course the practices of these unscrupulous breeders. There are more cats and dogs born than there are homes for them, and breeders are adding to these numbers all the time, whilst simultaneously failing to find lasting homes for the animals that they sell. This costs literally millions of lives (3.9 million dogs and 3.4 cats in the US every year according to the ASPCA) as overwhelmed and overworked shelters resort to euthanasia to curb the numbers. There is little justification for creating more puppies and kittens - purely for profit - when there are already thousands dying for lack of homes, but as long as there are willing customers, breeders will continue to do just that.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail Online.