Online shopping is so easy these days — it's just a matter of search, click, deliver.
But would you buy your next dog or cat online and have it sent right to your door?
Classified ad websites in Australia currently host thousands of posts for people selling puppies and kittens, with everything from Rottweilers to toy poodles on offer.
While many are legitimate, animal rights group Four Paws is now warning the rising trend could help facilitate puppy farms — especially if people are organising deliveries rather than picking the dogs up from the seller.
The group said an investigation of 42 classified ad websites around the world reveals little or no regulatory oversight.
"Unfortunately, there are breeders who care more about the money than the welfare of the dogs and the online trade gives them a perfect platform to hide their poor practices," Four Paws country director Jeroen van Kernebeek said.
Some online posts include details of the seller and their registered breeder or "supply" number. However, others are less formal.
"Rottweiler-kelpie puppies: 8 weeks old u have to microchip and vacate puppies," reads one post.
"9 week American staffy puppy female dog. $500," reads another.
Other posts are people seeking particular dogs.
"Wanting a Rottweiler or staffy puppies. Preferably a male. Will pay up to $800," reads one listing.
"Wanted: After a free puppy. Small to medium pup. Etc jack russell. Labadore," reads another.
The Four Paws analysis of ads across 10 countries found a raft of concerning posts.
These included a puppy being swapped for a smartphone, a pit bull advertised for dog fighting, and a wild boar being advertised to train hunting dogs.
"Online classified ad websites need to take the responsibility that they protect the animals and the people who use their platforms," Mr van Kernebeek said.
"What we've seen across the board was a lack of responsibility being taken by these platforms to, for example, do verification checks of the identity of the sellers.
"It's really easy for anyone to start an account and start selling animals."
Four Paws is calling for classified websites to bring in a number of measures to address concerns, including:
- Verify seller identities.
- Run pre-checks of all ads before they go live to remove illegal, misleading or inappropriate ones.
- Feature mandatory information in the ad on the animal including the age, gender, vaccination and registration details.
- Enforce a list of animals which are banned from being sold on the site — including primates, endangered and wild-caught animals, underage animals and pregnant animals.
Mr van Kernebeek said if people were committed to finding a pet online they should go to the seller to pick the animal up and see what its living conditions were like.
"See how the parent animals are kept because they are the ones that are suffering the most. They are the ones that stay there their whole lives," he said.
Four Paws also named five key things to be aware of before buying online.
- Think about it: "Anyone considering adding an animal to the family should ask themselves if they are ready for the commitment."
- Adopt: "We strongly recommend Australians consider adoption from an animal welfare organisation first."
- Do your homework: "If you are buying online, ask yourself how you can ensure that the breeder you're thinking of buying from is ethical."
- What to avoid: "Make sure to avoid puppy farms and backyard breeders."
- Don't be afraid to ask: "Asking the breeder all the right questions will help you find the perfect animal to join the family. If something feels off, then find another option."