Issues With Buying & Selling Pets Online

The ability to offer puppies and other animals for sale via the Internet has multiplied the concerns associated with puppy mills. Because of the ease of offering animals for sale online without any official oversight, many embrace the technology as a way to minimize the costs of operating a clean, healthy, and humane facility for the care of animals.

With virtual transactions, it is difficult to determine how well the animal is being cared for and the health and genetic history of the animal’s parents. Although adoption sites often require reference checks as a way to ensure animals are healthy and that living conditions are humane, this is not the case with most for-sale interactions on the Web. Once the animal is sold via the Internet, concerns include the method and safety of transportation to the buyer and the lack of regulation regarding the use of the animal after it is purchased. Moreover, by making more animals available for sale online, animals already awaiting adoption in shelters are put at increased risk of euthanasia.

Without the same safeguards used for online animal adoptions, the Internet allows buyers and sellers to anonymously acquire animals as pieces of property rather than the living, breathing creatures they are. The responsible purchase, or better yet adoption, of a companion animal involves a great deal of personal interaction between the existing owner and the animal’s potential new home. Physical adoption sites offer this opportunity to new owners, plus support and additional resources in case the animal has behavioral or socialization issues.

The federal Animal Welfare Act instructs the Secretary of the USDA to regulate any entity that purchases or transports live animals in interstate commerce in order “(1) to insure that animals intended for use… as pets are provided humane care and treatment; (2) to assure humane treatment of animals during transportation in commerce; and (3) to protect the owners of animals from the theft of their animals by preventing the sale or use of animals which have been stolen.” The Act also states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver to another person or receive from another person for purposes of transportation, in interstate or foreign commerce, any dog or other animal for purposes of having the dog or other animal participate in an animal fighting venture.”

American Humane opposes the sale of animals via the Internet because of the potential for the animal to suffer at the hands of unregulated breeders or guardians who may not provide minimum standards of care, the risks inherent in interstate commerce involving animals, and the lack of standards for how the animal will be cared for or used once it has been purchased.