Why you mustn't buy a pet on Facebook
In the news this week: Animal charities are warning people to be wary of irresponsible breeders selling puppies and kittens on Facebook, due to the unprecedented demand for pets in the UK during lockdown.
Facebook rules clearly state that you are not allowed to buy and sell pets on their site but an investigation by the BBC this week has found many puppies and kittens being offered for sale on the popular social media platform.
Now animal charities are telling buyers to beware. Not only because it is wrong to buy a pet on Facebook, but because some of the ads could be misleading. In some cases the animals are sick or too young to leave their mothers - whilst other ads are just moneymaking scams - and the pets do not even exist.
Basket of kittens photo by Jari Hytönen on Unsplash
Talking to the BBC, a spokesperson for the RSPCA called people who choose to sell their pets on Facebook "extremely irresponsible":
"We know that there are lots of unscrupulous breeders and sellers out there who exploit social media and classified websites in order to sell puppies and kittens without arousing suspicion. People should consider adopting from a rescue centre first, or follow its advice on buying dogs and cats - including seeing where the animal was bred”.
Lab puppies photo by Steve Sewell on Unsplash
Facebook have claimed that they are now investigating examples of pet sales on their platform that the BBC had identified – including those in closed groups – and they are now encouraging users to report any pet sale posts that they see. A spokesperson for facebook told the BBC:
"We do not allow the sale of animals on Facebook including in private groups, and when we find this type content we take it down."
Australian Shepherd puppies photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash
Pets in high demand
As we’ve discussed before on the blog, the 2 coronavirus lockdowns in the UK have meant that more people want a pet and demand has gone through the roof.
During the first lockdown, back in April the Kennel Club reported that searches for puppies on their website had doubled between February and March when the coronavirus restrictions were announced.
Because demand is outstripping demand, the price of puppies and kittens has also soared. With the prices of most pedigree breeds now at an all-time high as people are willing to pay thousands for their perfect pet.
Unfortunately, not all of the sellers are genuine though and some unscrupulous scam artists are using this as an opportunity to con people. Scam reporting service, Action Fraud said people are advertising pets on Facebook and asking for deposits, when those pets don’t even exist. They then keep the deposit - or more - and vanish.
According to Action Fraud, victims of this type of scam have lost more than £280,000 in two months – but the real figures are thought to be much higher as not everyone comes forward or reports the crime.
Blue puppy photo by photo by Zachary Casler on Unsplash
A Dog is for Life
Even if the pet buy online does turn out to be real, charities including Battersea Dogs Home, the RSPCA and Cats Protection are all warning against the idea of rushing to get a new pet during lockdown They suggest that as life returns to normal and people return to work, many pets may suffer from separation anxiety and feel distressed from being left at home alone for the first time – and some may end up being abandoned altogether.
Speaking to the BBC, Jacqui Cuff, Cat Protection’s head of advocacy said:
"The pandemic has created the ideal conditions for unscrupulous pet sellers to thrive, as they appear to have a credible reason for not allowing buyers to view the kitten with their mother first.
"Sadly, we fear there are many underage kittens being sold on Facebook by vendors who are impatient to make a quick profit. These kittens can go on to have serious, life-threatening illnesses or be so poorly socialised that they're not suitable as pets."
Bengal photo by Bodi on Unsplash
Ultimately if you are thinking of getting a new pet, remember that it is going to be around for a long time, way beyond lockdown. It will need constant attention, food, grooming and care and it is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Consider getting an animal from a shelter if you can and if you are worried about the level of responsibility involved, perhaps it’s time to think about getting a different type of pet instead. According to the Guardian, the best pet of 2020 is a snail. (Not sure if we’ll be bringing out any grooming ranges for these any time soon, though).
Main photo by Judi Neumeyer on Unsplash