VET’S VIEW: Avoid buying pets online

DID you know that 100,000 to 120,000 pet adverts appear on UK websites every day?

Last week, I attended Parliament and joined animal charities and MPs to launch new minimum standards for websites selling pets, designed to improve welfare and protect members of public from the risk of ending up with sick, dangerous or even illegal animals.

Increasingly, all shapes and sizes of animals are traded openly online – examples include puppy-farmed pups and kittens offered in a ‘swap for a mobile phone’.

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Recently, more exotic adverts included an Arctic fox, a very rare zonkey (a zebra-donkey cross), a skunk, marmoset monkeys, and illegal pitbull pups.

From under-age animals, banned breeds, illegally imported or endangered species, to animals offered in exchange for inanimate objects, online pet advertising in its current form appears to allow almost anything, so improved standards are desperately needed to try to filter out unscrupulous adverts.

Nowadays, people turn to their computers when looking to buy or sell almost anything, including pets, sadly seen by many as commodities like washing machines or cars, and advertised, bought and sold in the same way.

Websites complying with new standards will be identifiable to consumers as ethical and safer choices, and people need to stay alert, ensuring these websites meet standards consistently, and not use sites that don’t apply minimum standards.

In an ideal world, we would all prefer pets not to be available online at all, as it’s totally unethical and they usually become sick or die shortly afterwards, so websites do all they can to ensure the welfare of animals sold – a first step on the road to improving online pet sales.

Finally, if you really want a happy, healthy pet, please, never buy online – instead, visit your local rescue centre or always insist on seeing mum interacting with pup or kitten.