Gumtree has today 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.
Gumtree has taken steps to ensure that the platform is a safe and ethical place to buy and sell pets. These steps include the establishment of a relationship with the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) – the UK’s leading advisory group made up of 23 animal welfare organisations, trade associations and the veterinary profession – that promotes responsible pet advertising and the safe trading of animals via online adverts. Gumtree works hard to comply with, and in some cases exceed, PAAG’s 18 minimum standards for the rehoming of pets. These standards, developed by PAAG members including RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association, help ensure safety standards are adhered to and more animals are treated with respect and care.
Yet despite the efforts of PAAG and industry operators like Gumtree to meet standards, the illegal pets trade has continued to circumvent systems across the industry. The introduction of a compulsory paywall in the Pets category 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.
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”.
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”.
Canada’s leading online classifieds site Kijiji – part of the eBay classifieds Group, which includes Gumtree – introduced a similar paywall policy on a part of their platform in 2014 which proved successful in reducing incidents of abuse.