How to buy and sell pets safely online

It is easy to buy and sell pets safely online, says Felix Erken of local free classifieds company Junk Mail, provided everyone involved acts responsibly.

“At Junk Mail we are careful to educate our customers on how to buy and sell responsibly, because the stakes are particularly high when pets are involved,” says Erken. “As a 100% locally based classified ads company, we are also able to work very closely with the police and animal welfare organisations. The SAPS informed us recently they had arrested two pet scam operators based on information we provided.”

“There are some very basic precautions that we urge all our users to take when buying or selling a pet,” says Erken. The top tips for sellers, which are also available on the Junk Mail blog, are:

  •  Consider charging a market-related price rather than giving a pet away. If a person can’t afford to buy an animal, they probably can’t afford to keep it either.
  •  If you don’t want to profit from the sale of your pet, you can donate the money to an animal welfare organisation like the Wetnose Foundation, with whom Junk Mail has a long- standing relationship.
  •  Ask the new owner for the name and contact details of their preferred vet and try to confirm that they have a good track record with their pets.
  •  Ask to inspect the new owner’s home so you can gauge the environment for yourself – and understand if they ask to inspect your home.
  •  Keep a record of the new owner’s name, phone number, ID number and address.
  •  Make sure your pets are sterilised, if old enough, so they are of no value to “puppy mills” or unregistered breeders.

Buyers should observe similar precautions:

  •  Never meet sellers at shopping centres or on street corners. Insist on visiting the seller’s home or breeding facility so you can see the animal’s living conditions and, in the case of a puppy or kitten, see its parents.
  •  Be prepared to have your own home checked out in turn.
  •  Before buying any pet, ask to have it inspected by a vet of your choice.
  •  Do not buy a pet that has not been vaccinated, and insist that the seller gives you the vaccination card supplied and signed by a vet.
  •  Be wary of sellers who advertise many different breeds.
  •  Remember that a pet should never be an impulse buy: You are making a financial and emotional commitment for the lifetime of the animal, so decide responsibly.

In all cases, says Erken, “Watch out for people who use very emotive language or seem to make an unnecessarily big show of how much they love animals. They may be trying to manipulate you. Trust your instincts. If something feels even a tiny bit off, rather back away from the transaction and wait for the next person. Customers should also report suspicious activity to Junk Mail so we can take further action.”

Erken says every pet ad placed on Junk Mail is screened before going live, and that the company’s proofreaders are skilled at spotting scams and suspicious transactions. “We know most of the signs, and endeavour to remove all dodgy ads,” he says. “The pet section of our site probably takes more of our time than any other, because there are important welfare issues at stake. It is one of our biggest categories – being the third largest after the cars and jobs categories. We always report suspicious activity to the SPCA or the police.”

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How to buy and sell pets safely online