On TradeMe, Unicorn was described as healthy and ready for a new home.
But when Roger Jeakings took the Ragdoll home with him, he realized he had been misled. The cat he picked up from the seller at a petrol station south of Auckland was in poor mental health. “She was severely overweight and was trembling with fear,” said Jeakings. Long claws, “like claws”, were rolled back into their paws.
A medical history from Unicorn’s vet outlined vision problems and a history of stillborn kittens.
When Jeakings contacted TradeMe, it was ignored, he said. “No emails, no phone contact and a so-called ‘chat’ application, which is worse than useless.”
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Determined to be heard, Jeakings sent a report to TradeMe.
“Their first reaction was how concerned they were, and then communications died, even though I was as high as the CEO. I’m still waiting to hear from you after more than two months. “
Jeakings was one of several who contacted Stuff with stories of buying pets from Trade Me after an investigation by Nelson breeder Lisa Wiblin.
Braden Fastier / stuff
A stuff article about breeder Lisa Wiblin got a lot of people to come forward to share their experiences with the breeder and their experiences of buying animals through Trade Me.
There have been dozens of stories about Trade Me pets with diseases or genetic disorders. Others described offers with sickly animals, pets from well-known puppy factories, or people selling on behalf of notorious breeders.
Consumers “easily misled”
When Megan Denize scrolls through Trade Me’s animal lists, she sees “only entries from backyard breeders”.
“Consumers have very little understanding of how to identify a real breeder from a puppy mill and are easily tempted to buy sick inbred animals,” she said.
Denize, a trustee of the Helping Paws Charitable Trust, has been reporting for three years and has never received a response, she said.
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In her experience, few registered breeders use the sales page: with a solid reputation, they can get animals into good homes without having to use Trade Me, she said.
In a country where a third of us own dog and four out of ten have cats, it’s hardly surprising that our most popular sales site is a brisk pet trade.
For the week ending August 16, Trade Me had 800 dogs for sale and 200 to adopt, and 140 cats for sale or adoption.
The most commonly searched dog breed was the golden retriever. There were 49,000 searches for “kitten” and 27,000 searches for “puppy”.
Mary Hamer has spent four decades working with rescued Great Danes, some of which were originally purchased on Trade Me.
Mary Hamer / Supplied
Mary Hamer warns potential buyers of the pitfalls of buying pets at Trade Me.
She spoke of dogs with misshapen legs, broken bones, and internal deformities.
“One person paid … more than $ 7,000 to get a puppy’s heart on the right side of the chest. There are just too many stories. “
The Great Dane community kept an eye on the sales page via her Facebook page, she said.
“We all use the button: Report this ad and why. But there is never a written answer. “
Trade Me’s anonymity allowed growers to thrive – and to hide, Hamer said.
Some puppies are listed under “Dog Clothes” or “Other”.
“Puppy breeders offer to ship the puppies so that buyers cannot visit the property.”
One interviewee, who did not want to be named, told Stuff that she reported a breeder after visiting her property.
The property was “overrun” with dogs and puppies: some chained, others in a shelter, she said. The air was full of flies.
“[Dogs and puppies] were covered in dirt and fleas and clearly full of worms. A couple of dirty blankets were piled up in one corner, but otherwise it was bare dirt. “
The woman reported the Trade Me listing twice but remained active.
A woman on a rescue team who did not want to be named told Stuff that she and others reported records of a cat breed that were featured on Stuff.
“We never received an answer. The welfare of the parents of these animals is not taken into account, some of whom will spend their lives in appalling conditions. “
TradeMe’s Animal Welfare Code is designed to “promote a high standard of animal welfare for cats and dogs sold on the site”. Sellers must meet a number of health and care standards and limit the number of litters.
One respondent forwarded a “worrying” email she received from TradeMe that said it contradicted the sales page code.
“We are not naive about the fact that some breeders are not getting it right and that some animals are unfortunately exposed to poor living conditions,” the email read. “If an animal is living in poor conditions, removing the listing from our website could actually result in that animal being placed in a loving new environment.”
Braden Fastier / stuff
“We’re not naive about the fact that some breeders are not getting it right and that some animals are unfortunately exposed to poor living conditions,” said an email from Trade Me.
While some activists advocated banning the pet trade, others disagreed, saying a ban would send sellers into unregulated markets.
Sarah, who asked not to use her last name, cited Facebook’s “huge underground” pugs and bulldogs market that has sold for up to $ 7,000 since Trade Me im banned the sale of these breeds 2018 has seen ways to bypass the website’s algorithms, she said.
“[At least with Trade Me], there is actually a way to monitor these people. “
Trade Me’s James Ryan said the company takes animal welfare seriously and its Trust & Safety team investigated the concerns immediately.
“Depending on the information, we may remove an entry, submit information to the SPCA for further investigation, and / or block a member from our website.
Ryan said the fact that members did not hear about their complaints did not mean that no action was taken; Trade Me just couldn’t discuss them for privacy reasons.
He said members could also report sellers directly to the SPCA, which could then contact Trade Me for more information. This happened 15 times a year through June 30th.
Trade Me checked reports and constantly monitored the website for “shady” behavior, Ryan said. However, with eight million entries at once, it is impossible to double-check each one before posting, he said, adding that a dog-selling ban would “crack a nut with a sledgehammer.”
“The vast majority of the people who sell pets on Trade Me are honest animal lovers who want to care for their animals and find great new owners.”