On Tuesday, 7 August, Gumtree announced the introduction of a compulsory paywall in its Pets category in a bid to deter unscrupulous operators from misusing the platform and discourage the ‘casual’ trading of animals online.

From today, anyone wishing to post an ad in Gumtree’s Pets category will be required to pay a nominal fee. The move by the UK’s number one classifieds platform represents a big shift from Gumtree’s ‘free for all users’ model in this category,” a statement reads.

The announcement comes only days after the story of Buddy – who was bought on Gumtree and discarded a few hours later – went viral. Online adverts are one of puppy farmers and smugglers’ preferred way to advertise and sell puppies to the public, who remain largely unaware of the industrial-scale suffering these pups come from. A click is all that it takes to purchase a puppy on impulse, often with heart-breaking consequences.

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director and Chair of PAAG Paula Boyden said, “It has long been our concern that animals are being exploited by traders, with unscrupulous operators setting up fake profiles on classifieds platforms to hide this from unsuspecting buyers. Animals are often bred illegally by criminal gangs and frequently have health problems as a result of profit being put before their welfare.

“Furthermore, many pets are being illegally imported into the country but their backgrounds are being concealed from the buyer which is deeply worrying”.

The introduction of a compulsory paywall in the Pets category, Gumtree argues, creates an obstacle that will “naturally discourage users from casually posting pet ads and means Gumtree and law enforcement agencies can more easily identify illegal operators”. Canada’s leading online classifieds site Kijiji introduced a similar paywall policy on a part of their platform in 2014, and it proved successful in reducing incidents of abuse.

Gumtree’s General Manager Matt Barham said, “For the first time in our 18-year history, we have taken the deliberate and purposeful step to shift away from our traditional ‘free for all users’ model in the Pets category in a bid to rid Gumtree of illegal pets trading. This is a measure we have imposed on ourselves not because we are required to do so by government or our colleagues in the animal welfare industry, but because we believe it is the right thing to do.

“Gumtree is and always has been firmly committed to making sure our platform is as safe as possible for rehoming pets and this measure marks the latest milestone in our journey to improve safety for Gumtree users.”

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