TradeMe pet sales help ‘backyard breeders’ thrive, consumers and advocates say

On TradeMe, Unicorn has been described as healthy and ready for a new home.

But when Roger Jeakings brought the ragdoll cat home, he realized he had been misled. The cat, which he had picked up from the vendor at a gas station south of Auckland, was in poor mental condition. “She was overweight and was shaking with fear,” Jeakings said. Long claws, “like talons”, were folded in its paws.

Unicorn’s vet’s medical history described vision problems and a history of stillborn kittens.

When Jeakings contacted TradeMe, he was ignored, he said. “No emails, no phone contact and a so called ‘chat’ app which is worse than useless.”

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Determined to be heard, Jeakings sent a report to TradeMe.

“Their initial response was how worried they were and then the communication died, despite being as high as the CEO. I’m still waiting to hear from them after more than two months.

Jeakings was one of the many who contacted Thing with stories of buying pets at Trade Me following an investigation of Nelson’s breeder Lisa Wiblin.

A Stuff article on breeder Lisa Wiblin prompted many people to contact us to share their experiences with the breeder and their experiences buying animals through Trade Me.

Braden Fastier / Stuff

A Stuff article on breeder Lisa Wiblin prompted many people to contact us to share their experiences with the breeder and their experiences buying animals through Trade Me.

There were dozens of stories about Trade Me animals with diseases or genetic diseases. Others described lists of sick animals, pets of known puppy mills, or people selling on behalf of notorious breeders.

Consumers “easily fooled”

When Megan Denize scrolls through the Trade Me pet listings, she sees “nothing but backyard breeder listings.”

“Consumers have very little understanding of how to identify a real breeder in a puppy mill and are easily tricked into purchasing sick and inbred animals,” she said.

A director of the Helping Paws Charitable Trust, Denize has been reporting announcements for three years and has never had a response, she said.

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In her experience, few registered breeders use the site for sale: with a solid reputation, they are able to place animals in good homes without needing to use Trade Me, she said.

In a country where a third of us own dogs and four in 10 have cats, it’s no surprise that our most popular shopping site is doing a quick pet business.

In the week to August 16, Trade Me had 800 dogs for sale and 200 for adoption, and 140 cats for sale or adoption.

The most sought after dog breed was the golden retriever. There were 49,000 searches for “kitten” and 27,000 searches for “puppy”.

Mary Hamer has spent four decades working with Rescued Great Danes, some originally purchased on Trade Me.

Mary Hamer warns potential buyers of the pitfalls of buying animals from Trade Me.

Mary Hamer / Supplied

Mary Hamer warns potential buyers of the pitfalls of buying animals from Trade Me.

She was talking about dogs with deformed paws, broken bones and internal deformities.

“One person paid … over $ 7,000 to have a puppy’s heart moved to the correct side of the chest. There are just too many stories.

Via her Facebook page, the Danish Mastiff community kept an eye on the site for sale, she said.

“We all use the button: report this ad and why. But there is never a written answer.

The anonymity provided by Trade Me’s has allowed ranchers to thrive – and to go into hiding, Hamer said.

Some puppies are listed under

Swap me

Some puppies are listed under “dog clothes” or “other”.

“The puppy breeders are offering to ship the puppies so that buyers cannot visit the property.”

One respondent, who asked not to be named, said Thing she pointed out a breeder after visiting their property.

The property was “overrun” with dogs and puppies: some chained, others contained in a lean-to, she said. The air was laden with flies.

“[Dogs and puppies] were covered in dirt and fleas and clearly full of worms. There were a few dirty blankets stacked in a corner, but otherwise it was bare dirt.

The woman reported the list to Trade Me twice, but she remained active.

A woman from a rescue team, who asked not to be named, said Thing she and others had reported listings by a featured cat breeding to Thing.

“We never received a response. There is no respect for the welfare of the parents of these animals, some of whom will live their lives in shameful conditions. “

TradeMe Animal Welfare Code claims to “promote a high level of welfare for cats and dogs sold on the site”. Sellers must adhere to a number of health and care standards and limit the number of litters.

One respondent forwarded a “disturbing” email she received from TradeMe which she said contradicted the code of the sales site.

“We are not naive that some breeders do not do things right and unfortunately some animals are subjected to poor living conditions,” the email reads. “By saying that if an animal lives in poor conditions, delisting from our site could actually delay putting that animal into a new loving environment.”

Braden Fastier / Stuff

“We are not naive that some breeders do not fully understand and unfortunately some animals are subjected to poor living conditions,” an email from Trade Me said.

While some activists argued for a ban on Trade Me pet sales, others disagreed, saying a ban would send sellers to unregulated markets.

Sarah, who requested that her last name not be used, cited the “huge underground” Facebook marketplace for pugs and bulldogs selling for up to $ 7,000 which has proliferated since Trade Me banned the sale of these breeds in 2018. While Facebook banned the sale of animals, sellers could find ways to bypass the site’s algorithms, she said.

“[At least with Trade Me], there is actually a way to monitor these people.

James Ryan of Trade Me said the company takes animal welfare seriously and his Trust & Safety team immediately investigated the issues.

“Depending on the information, we may remove a list, forward information to the SPCA to further investigate and / or ban a member from our site.

Ryan said that the fact that the members had not heard from their complaints did not mean that no action had been taken; Trade Me just couldn’t discuss it for privacy reasons.

He said members could also report sellers directly to the SPCA, who could then contact Trade Me for more information. This happened 15 times in the year until June 30.

Trade Me has reviewed the reports and continuously monitored the site for “shady” behavior, Ryan said. However, with eight million listings at a time, it was impossible to verify each one before it was posted, he said, adding that banning the sale of dogs would be like “using a hammer to crack a nut.”

“The vast majority of people who sell pets on Trade Me are honest animal lovers who want to take care of their animals and find great new owners.”

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