As Australians increasingly turn to the internet to find their new pets, things can go terribly wrong if animal welfare isn‚Äôt made a priority at the point of sale.
That‚Äôs why the RSPCA has today released Guidelines for the Online Advertising of Pets, to help online retailers protect animals and consumers from unscrupulous sellers trying to use their sites.
Increasingly, Australians are searching for the new fluffy love of their lives on the internet; but with no real regulation of pets advertised for sale online, this has concerning implications for traceability, accountability and animal welfare.
RSPCA Australia Scientific Officer for Companion Animals Dr Bronwyn Orr says these Guidelines are the minimum required to safeguard animal welfare, to ensure the happy process of bringing home a new pet isn‚Äôt marred by misinformation, illness, or worse.
‚ÄúIdeally, people would find their pets through their local animal shelter or trusted rescue organisation, but the reality is more and more Australians are searching for animals on websites, where sellers from across the country can list pets for sale,‚Äù said Dr Orr.
‚ÄúThere are some really simple ways to address the key welfare concerns that can arise while there is so little accountability on sellers,
‚ÄúFor a start, buying a pet sight unseen is never a good idea, and if a seller is listing a pet for sale with ‚Äòdelivery available‚Äô, this is an immediate red flag,
‚ÄúSimilarly, animals listed at under eight weeks of age, without microchip details, and with no other health information, are all potential welfare concerns,‚Äù she said.
The RSPCA‚Äôs Guidelines for retail and classified websites are designed to ensure sellers provide the right information for consumers to make good choices, while also informing site policies.
They also encourage auditing and reporting of ads, enabling site owners to identify and remove offending ads to protect both animals and consumers.
‚ÄúSadly, there‚Äôs currently no Australian retail or classifieds website that currently meets all the Guidelines, though some are much closer than others,‚Äù said Dr Orr.
‚ÄúWe want all websites that sell pets to adopt our Guidelines and hold sellers more accountable when listing animals for sale. This could also help traceability when cruelty concerns do arise, and will definitely empower consumers to look for the right signs and report concerns directly to the platforms,
‚ÄúWe know most Australians want to do the right thing when buying a pet, and they don‚Äôt want this exciting time to be ruined by their new pet suffering poor health outcomes because they weren‚Äôt properly cared for, or because they were sold too young,
‚ÄúWebsites that sell pets have a great opportunity here to do the right thing, and show consumers they care about the ethics and practices of their community,‚Äù said Dr Orr.