Gumtree is an online classifieds website which covers 60 cities across 6 countries, it is the UK's largest website for local community classifieds and was founded back in March 2000. As well as advertising houses, cars, jobs and services Gumtree makes it possible for you to buy, sell and swap unwanted animals. It costs nothing to post and advert, unless you want your advert to be featured in which a small fee is incurred.
Before I start I am going to come clean, risk losing my credibility, and confess that it was actually via Gumtree that we found the beautiful Suki. We posted an advert on Gumtree offering a good home to an unwanted dog and an animal rescue organisation contacted us. (Gumtree have now removed their "Pets Wanted" section)
It is only in the past few months that I realised what a bad idea this was and that although Suki had a happy ending, the animal rescue organisation couldn't be 100% sure that we were the animal loving couple we claimed to be as they didn't even carry out a home check or follow up visit after the adoption. I remember Suki's Fosterer being a lovely lady but quite eager to find a forever home for her charge as Suki was a bit of a handful and didn't get along with her two cats (Suki still has the scar to prove it!)
Things turned out well in the end, and I am sure in some cases they do result in a happy future for the animal concerned but it can also result in tragedy and that is why I believe Gumtree and other classifieds should no longer advertise animals. I realise that this post may seem hypocritical given my use of Gumtree in the past and this is the reason I have hesitated so long before writing about this. I have now been educated on the dangers and can't keep quiet about this important and worrying issue any longer. I hope you will allow me to continue to share my views.
Why is using Gumtree or classifieds an issue?
As I type this there are currently 11,320 dogs, 2,229 cats, 2,012 birds, 1,558 fish, 2,721 small furries and 4,864 other animals listed on Gumtree (in London alone) which shows you the popularity of Gumtree as a place to re-home (or get rid) of your pet. Having spent some time going through the adverts (with the assistance of this very helpful group Get Gumtree Animal Free, that regularly posts questionable adverts on their site) I have taken note of the reasons for animals seeking a new home (new baby, doesn't get along with other pet, change in circumstances and the ever popular "needs gone today!") and also noticed that very rarely is a home check carried out before an animal is allowed to relocate.
Shockingly, some animals are even swapped for products such as mobile phones and even quad bikes which leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth as does the fact that some animals are re-homed only to appear back on Gumtree at a later date, being shipped from pillar to post. Puppies are re-homed when they are too young to leave their mothers and don't forget that classifieds are the ideal place for puppy farmers to dispose of their ill-gotten pups.
Recently there have been stories in the press of unsavoury and downright disgraceful members of the public adopting animals listed for free on classified sites and using them as bait for illegal dog fighting. Read Bonnie's story, she has had a happy ending thanks to the fantastic We Help Any Dog but I have read articles that made me despair.
Gumtree has taken steps to improve things for the animals re-homed using its site, they have stopped featuring the "Pets Wanted" category (although the occasional advert slips through to a different category) and features advice from the RSPCA here. They also have a pop up which appears before you attempt to list an animal for sale (please see above image) and asks you to agree to their pets policies. Although I am thankful that this is in force I have still seen evidence on the regularly updated Get Gumtree Animal Free group that this advice is largely being ignored and greed, desperation and possibly ignorance is causing people to treat their pets as disposable and re-home (or even swap!) them in potentially unsafe quarters.
Please join Get Gumtree Animal Free, it is a Facebook group so you will need to have a Facebook account to join. This group is very active and provides many ways you can help. If you want to join but don't wish to use Facebook please contact the owner of the group at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you have time please visit Gumtree and check the adverts to flag up any suspicious adverts, for example someone re-homing puppies that are too young or someone swapping an animal for something. If you do find something suspicious please click the "Report" button on the top right hand side (Please see above image).
Please sign and share this petition calling for an urgent review in laws governing the sale of animals online.
If you come across any other classified advert website that allow animals to be advertised please contact them and ask them politely their policy on pets and also suggest they remove all pet listings from their site in the future. I'd love to hear from you if you do this and I will update you on any replies I receive.
Finally, if you or anyone you know needs to re-home an animal please don't use a classified advert. Contact a rescue centre or seek advice from the RSPCA.