Why are smart people so easily duped when it comes to buying pets online?

Zoya Patel 27 October 2021 9
Puppy farm

The pandemic has boosted the market for puppy farms producing ‘fashionable’ breeds. Photo: RSPCA.

The pandemic has had a mixed effect on animal welfare in Australia.

Thousands have rushed to bring a pet into their lives as a way of adding some light during a depressing and isolating time of intermittent lockdowns and travel restrictions across the country. But with the sudden yearning for a pet comes some pretty dubious decision-making on where and how to find a puppy or kitten to purchase.

I’m a die-hard animal welfare advocate and have fairly strict views on how we should approach introducing a pet to our families and what responsibilities that entails.

Maybe because of this, many of my friends and family ask me for advice on how to go about ethically adopting or buying a dog or cat. They usually then promptly ignore any advice I offer and do the thing that they were always going to do – they go online, google ‘cavoodle’ or ‘ragdoll kitten’, and buy one for some enormous sum of money from a dodgy online ad.

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These are people who are clever and discerning about everything else they consume and use a values-based approach to many other significant decisions, whether it be buying sustainable and recycled groceries, avoiding palm oil, reducing plastic use, buying an environmentally friendly car, not supporting sweatshop labour, etc. But when it comes to animals, the principles of ethical consumerism and reducing the harm they might cause with their decisions seems to fly out the window in favour of instant gratification.

I’ve had people tell me that while they would really love to adopt a dog, the rescues for the specific breed they want rarely have dogs available, and they want one now, so really, they’ve done what they can, and now they’re going to get one from the ad online that has no registered breeding number and looks a lot like a puppy farm.

Or that, while they would normally buy from a responsible breeder, the only ones they can find are too far away and won’t have another litter this year, so they did their best, but they’re going to contact the dodgy place advertising year-round French Bulldogs.

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The core belief underpinning these decisions is that they deserve the dog or cat they want because they want it. They aren’t willing to compromise on age, breed, or timeframe because they ultimately care more about their gratification than the animal’s welfare when it comes down to it. The animal, to them, is a product, and they believe the customer is always right.

If I sound judgemental, it’s because I am – and I have no issues with claiming that. My firm belief is that pets should only be brought into a family if all of their needs can be properly met and that there is no justification ever for supporting unethical breeding of pedigree cats and dogs.

I understand that many people have breed preferences when it comes to dogs, in particular, and there are valid reasons for this – different breeds will suit different accommodations, lifestyles etc. I don’t think that all breeding should be banned because I can see value in celebrating different breeds’ unique characteristics and features. I think there is a good middle ground where breeders can breed to scientifically backed breeding standards, with limits on numbers and strict selling guidelines.

I know many amazing people who have waited, connected with the right organisations to find out the most ethical way to find a dog of their preferred breed, and waited patiently to either rescue or buy one from a responsible breeder. It’s possible to do this. It’s just that so many people are willing to put their needs first and do the wrong thing.

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I find it genuinely mind-boggling when I see people who I know are smart, principled and critical thinkers celebrating picking up a too-young puppy via a Gumtree ad from a car park somewhere, handing over cash for their new animal and not questioning even once whether they’re supporting a dodgy enterprise.

Nobody is owed or entitled to a pet. Animals are not here to provide entertainment and satisfy our whims. They are complex, vulnerable creatures who deserve to be treated like individuals and not accessories. Instead of framing your decision making around what you want and need from a pet, maybe think about what they deserve from you. If you can’t meet their needs, they shouldn’t be expected to meet yours.

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9 Responses to Why are smart people so easily duped when it comes to buying pets online?
Steve Dawson Steve Dawson 5:59 pm 21 Nov 21

My family adopted an ARF border collie cross called Cindy in 2006. She passed away in 2013 from lymphoma despite 20 weeks of chemo. Broke my heart. After many years of having dogs as a boy and the experience with Cindy I could not go through that again. My wife and daughter decided that a Havoodle (Havanese and Toy poodle) – Bella which I teasingly referred to as a Havapoo ; } was a good solution. Bought from a registered breeder, I love Bella to bits. She now lives with my daughter. I agree that the puppy farms cross breeding dogs for profit is a bad idea. My daughter pointed out that the “Bitsa” variety was the dog of choice given from litters belonging to friends or the dog pound back in the past. I could get another woofer but I think I will doggy sit Bella instead. Be patient and the woofer will find you.

SP Brogues SP Brogues 7:01 pm 31 Oct 21

For those looking for dogs have you thought about being foster carers? I used to foster for ACT Rescue And Foster. We actually found our dog who was one of our fosters. This is called a “foster fail” hahaha

The great thing about ARF is that they test dogs before foster carers take them and the foster carer has a choice about which dog they take based on their personal circumstances and level of experience with dogs. It’s not a full time commitment and as in our case it was a great way to test a dog before it became an adoption. People have so many misconceptions about rescue dogs. It’s such a shame. Being a foster carer was such a rewarding experience for me. I thoroughly recommend it.

Karin I'Anson Karin I'Anson 9:53 am 31 Oct 21

We lost our two old beloved rescue poodle and Moodle in a year period .

We looked and looked for a rescue for months . The whole process was so very hard .

Particularly living in a regional area and not being able to travel due to Covid . So we gave up on rescuing .

We then looked at breeder websites for poodle crosses and contacted them - most were awful to deal with ( no puppy choice and charging outrageous prices . (Up to 9,000) for some breeds and colours !!!

Many appeared to be nothing more than breeding factories . I joined on line breed specific groups and it became apparent my experience was not uncommon .

Then I saw an advert in our post for a local first time home breeder . ( or what some breeders refer to as back yard breeders) We were able to see the home , parents and puppies and the whole experience was SO good . They were DNA tested and hip scored .

In my experience the experienced ‘breeders ‘ were exploiting the Covid situation and the dogs . This lovely local woman was a far better breeder .

Our dog is healthy happy and training up well .

Annie Newbery Annie Newbery 11:35 pm 30 Oct 21

Buy from legitimate breeders, try dog online.com.au first. Talk to breeders. They want to promote their breed and love speaking to genuinely interested buyers.

Sue Charls Sue Charls 12:39 pm 30 Oct 21

We lost our beloved pet 3 years ago and would love to have another dog but do not know where to get one. Online just too untrustworthy and ridiculously expensive and rescue dogs in our area are all cross breed pitbull, staffy types which are not suitable for us.

Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:46 pm 28 Oct 21

Zoya, I don’t understand why you even call these people ‘smart’? What makes them ‘smart’ – a uni education or following the trend of shopping sustainable, EV cars etc (mostly I suspect they don’t actually get it, but it’s ‘cool’ to be part of the current mass and to seem discerning, thus makes them seem cool too..)

These people are just followers being involved with the next shiny thing to be part of the current ‘in crowd’

If they were not a pet person prior to covid/lockdown – then they NEVER were – they are just getting pets now to meet their own selfish self-gratification/needs – and to look ‘cool’ with everyone one else walking their dogs..

And unfortunately dodgy puppy farms are able to capitalise and take advantage of this …where there is a market, there is an enabler & extornistist - thus creating this horrible perpetual market.

The people you mention as “smart, principled and critical thinkers” are not – they are shallow & fake - using a dog/cat just to meet their own current needs or to look cool – what will happen to these animals once covid/lockdown is over?

Watch RSPCA & the pounds in coming months with abandoned pets…

    Andrea Trappes Andrea Trappes 7:39 am 30 Oct 21

    Don't forget, Nada, the loneliness of solitude and older age that can be alleviated by a furry friend. These are the people who are deceived more than anyone. Yes I agree there will be those who surrender their newly acquired animals, but those animals will find a home with those who truly need them.

Rosalind Turner Rosalind Turner 8:04 am 28 Oct 21

I lost my dog last October. I've been looking for another dog for a couple of months now as I'm ready to give another love and space in my life. But there is nothing out there suitable. I'm surfing all the rescue websites but they are either too big, need someone at home all the time, or don't get along with cats. Breeders are now charging criminal prices. I'll just keep looking and waiting for a small-medium breed that can be indoor/outdoor, can be left alone during the day a few times a week, and gets along with cats.

    Jackie White Jackie White 6:14 pm 29 Oct 21

    Rosalind Turner Agree. $5000+ for cross-breed dogs is nuts. There's virtually nothing at the RSPCA (where did they all go? There used to be dozens to choose from....). Rescue sites seem full of large dogs which are unsuitable for small yards/homes with cats/older people etc.

    I'd love a greyhound but I value my cat's life....

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