Read and subscribe to the Lost and Found Pets Ireland blog

Stray Thoughts


Posts Tagged ‘pet classifieds’

Our Response To Mark Beazley of Dogs Trust Ireland & DoneDeal on Online Pet Classifieds

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Introduction

On May 15th, Irish classified ads website DoneDeal.ie published a blog post attempting to defend itself from a statement by the Dublin SPCA which raised several serious animal welfare concerns it had with the pets classifieds published on DoneDeal.ie.

Since DoneDeal have opted, probably wisely, to disable the commenting facility from at least this particular blog post on their site, I have been forced to respond here to the points raised by them, the ISPCA and Dogs Trust Ireland.  I intend to do this over 3 separate posts.  You can read part one here.  Here’s part two.

I have reproduced the content of the blog to provide context and sense for my responses which are in bold text to distinguish them from the DoneDeal content.

Response

Mark Beazley, Executive Director of Dogs Trust (who formerly led the ISPCA), Dogs Trust is Ireland and Europe’s largest dog welfare organisation.

Dogs Trust may be Ireland and Europe’s biggest dog welfare organisation but I’m not sure how exactly that size is relevant here.  The size of the DSPCA is obviously limited by their stated geographical reach (the clue is in the name folks) – does that make them less caring, less efficient, less prudent, less aware or less qualified to critique DoneDeal’s behaviour – I don’t think so.  In fact if anything, I think the size of Dogs Trust and the ISPCA only serves to raise the question as to why these large and influential charities have decided to step in behind a relatively small (in the greater scheme of things) commercial concern such as DoneDeal rather than use their resources and influence to galvanise public opinion and call a halt to the provision of this platform for animal abuse.  Unfortunately, animal welfare and prudent financial considerations are frequently opposing forces – just as they are in this case.

We have concerns around the sale of dogs in the same way we have concerns around dog sale through classifieds but we recognise that the sale of dogs online is here to stay.

As I already pointed out in the first blog post on this matter, we get what we are willing to support and we will never get any progress with such a fatalistic defeatist attitude.  DoneDeal, as the largest animal advertiser in Ireland have created the largest platform for unscrupulous sellers to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers at the expense of the animals they sell, with the full support apparently of two of the country’s largest animal welfare charities.  As long as they have that support, nothing will change as there will be no commercial pressure to bring change about.

We have been working with DoneDeal and other online organisations to make sure adequate measures are in place to protect dogs being sold and also those who are buying them.

Well unfortunately in the past 4 years since, according to the DSPCA, DoneDeal failed to act on undertakings given on animal welfare, we have clearly seen that whatever measures you are referring to have simply not been effective.  Can you describe these so called ‘adequate measures’ and give details of how and where they have been implemented and detail successful prosecutions against those who transgressed them?  I asked the same of the ISPCA a week ago and am still awaiting an official response.

Can you explain to us how these unspecified measures tangibly address the following issues:

• Advertising of an unauthorised Horse Fair in Kildare in March.
• Images showing inappropriate treatment of animals including unsuitable living conditions for bitches and pups.
• Sellers allowed to advertise multiple animals and litters of puppies.
• Selling of restricted Veterinary medicines.
• Selling of questionable dog training/deterrent devices.
• Selling of puppies/dogs with illegally mutilated body parts such as docked tails.
• Selling of guard dogs.
• Selling of animal trapping equipment.

We have also worked closely with DoneDeal to promote the rehoming of rescue dogs.

Looking at the DoneDeal site as someone who builds websites myself, I note that on the main DoneDeal Animals Page there is absolutely nothing about animal welfare whatsoever, never mind adoption or re-homing.  The page could be depicting a list of any inanimate commodities.

DoneDeal animals

Just another inanimate commodity listed for profit

In addition, posting relatively small text links to try to encourage people to adopt when they are on a site with the express intent of purchasing a dog of a particular breed and age is, I would suggest, unlikely to be very successful.  In fact, the only place I even see adoption mentioned is a small text link under the search box which I would feel most site users are unlikely to even notice.  Personally I would assume it was just some kind of disclaimer or help link and ignore it.  Contrast that to the way the prices on each ad stand out – no missing those!

DoneDeal says it promotes dog adoption

DoneDeal’s idea of promoting dog adoption

Have Dogs Trust Ireland been provided the independently verifiable number of visitors who follow this adoption link as a percentage of the overall visitors to this page so you can judge its effectiveness yourself and if so, can you please share that figure to put our concerns to rest?  Has any A/B testing been done of alternative layouts with the aim of improving this percentage? Since you are polishing DoneDeal’s halo with the reputation of your organisation, I would expect at least that they are providing you empirical measurements of the success of these measures and those who fund your organisation have a right to see them.

Even on the individual listing pages, if we simply use the ratio of the area of the screen devoted to the ad itself and facilities to contact the seller and share the ad to the area devoted to animal welfare blurb and the visual interest assigned to each by the graphic design as an indicator, it is clear how much importance DoneDeal really places on the welfare of the animals it advertises.  There isn’t even a call to action on this page anywhere to adopt.  I note even the banner ad on the page is bigger, brighter and more graphically appealing than the animal welfare section.

No call to action to adopt

Small and muted screen space given to animal welfare information Who exactly is it that shops for friends online?

We are working with many organisations in this area but DoneDeal in particular has put in place measures that will improve dog welfare based on suggestions we have made.

Again I respectfully ask, what measures specifically have DoneDeal (in particular) implemented which meaningfully and positively impact the welfare of the animals it advertises.  In addition who are these other organisations and is the DSPCA one of them?

Have Dogs Trust Ireland decided on some arbitrary level of abuse they are willing to accept on the DoneDeal website before they will request the suspension of ads?  I ask this as Dogs Trust Ireland say they got DoneDeal to suspend the publication of classifieds in the run-up to Christmas.  If this is the case, it clearly shows that Dogs Trust can modify DoneDeal’s behaviour if it chooses to.

Undoubtedly, there is more work to be done but measures like this are moves in the right direction.”

Well Mr Beazley, I will certainly give you that, there is obviously a lot more that needs to be done but I would certainly not feel we are moving in the ‘right direction’ at all when 2 of our largest animal welfare charities would row in behind a commercial venture providing a platform facilitating so much animal abuse and unscrupulous selling to unsuspecting buyers rather than support another charity with similar aims.  It’s enough to make anyone wonder what exactly happened for the last 4 years between the parties from the DoneDeal blog post since DoneDeal gave the udertakings they subsequently reneged on.  You can rest assured this website intends to continue playing its part moving forward on this issue.

Finally, while I can of course only speak for myself here, I have to say that when I give some of my hard earned money to a charity, I trust that that charity is operating on firm principles, not commercial/financial convenience.  I hope I’m not the only one.

As always, all comments are welcome.