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Suggestion for Change to Donedeal Pet Classifieds Animal Abuse Policing

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

While some of us push for genuine and tangible change in the way Donedeal manages sellers, as it puts in place measures to make them legally responsible for the content they publish and assumes full responsibility for the policing of said ads itself rather than using the free labour of concerned activists (not that it has agreed to do any of that yet but hey, I’m an optimist), the issue of how the ads can be most effectively policed remains a pressing one.

It is clear that whatever ad monitoring Donedeal claims to be doing itself still isn’t working.

It is also clear that in the absence of any solution for this from either the ISPCA, Dogs Trust Ireland or even Donedeal for the past 4 years, there needs to be some fresh thinking here.  So, I have a suggestion, but first some background.

The Background

As mentioned above, due to necessity, a community of Donedeal policing activists has grown up.  I can’t think of any other situation where members of the public are willing to do the work a private company should be doing itself, 100% for free while that company continues to earn and grow.  So it is quite apparent that people aren’t doing this for any personal gain, but rather because of their genuine care for animals – you know, the kind that Donedeal claims to have itself.  Well, I believe the efforts of those people should be directly and publicly rewarded rather than Donedeal, particularly as many of these people are now becoming so demoralised from continuing to see a never ending stream of these ads with no over all tangible progress being made to stem it.  Since it is clear that they are not doing the work for personal gain, I am sure they would be agreeable to having their reward passed back into the cause of bettering life for all Irish animals.  So, here’s the idea.

The Idea

Immediately, using its substantial, existing web development resources, Donedeal would re-purpose petaware.ie from the perceived lowest budget possible, self-serving, cynical PR exercise aimed primarily at improving it’s own image around the area of animal welfare concerns, into a hub for crowd-sourcing the policing of its pet ads.  The site would basically gamify locating ads for removal based on a clear and simple list of published, pre-defined problem listing indicators and for each ad found, the finder would be publicly acknowledged on the site and be able to nominate a standard donation fee to an animal welfare charity of their choice.  I would also like to see an accompanying phone app for this purpose, so folk could participate when commuting etc.

I would see this standard donation fee being sourced from all the funds that Donedeal is currently spending, arguably on its own image enhancing efforts such as spayaware.ie, a basically good initiative who’s credibility they are clearly now damaging, as they should be cleaning up their own mess before they go out preaching to the public about how they should be treating their pets.  The donation amount should be high enough to encourage public participation beyond the core current activists as well as to strongly incentivise Donedeal to make tangible progress in reducing the problems it has failed to address to date – I would suggest €100 per find.

The problematic indicators for ads that people would check against could include but not necessarily be limited to:

  • Ads for illegal events such as horse fairs / road-races.
  • Ads with images showing inappropriate treatment of animals including unsuitable living conditions for bitches and pups.
  • Ads from sellers advertising multiple animals and litters of puppies.
  • Ads offering restricted veterinary medicines.
  • Ads selling questionable dog training/deterrent devices.
  • Ads selling puppies/dogs with illegally mutilated body parts such as docked tails.
  • Ads for guard dogs.
  • Ads for animal trapping equipment.

This gamified DoneDeal pet ad policing site would have a different ad display interface so that users could more quickly review the ads. It could have badges for users, e.g. – find 5 ads, get the “I’m now house trained” badge!

Just to be clear, I do not see this idea as a long-term solution to the problem of these ads. I believe that the only realistic long term, and indeed, fair solution, involves making sellers legally accountable for the ads they publish and Donedeal responsible for bringing them to account as the one who is profiting from providing the platform they are using.

As always, comments are more than welcome.  Keep up to date or have your say on Twitter using the #petsb4profit hashtag.

5 Years Old Today

Monday, June 9th, 2014

I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to post this.

Today marks the 5th anniversary of my launching this site.  In previous years I’ve viewed this anniversary as a happy occasion, characterised us as the little site that could, run up fun graphics for Facebook and Twitter and thanked everyone for their continued support but this year I’m sorry to say, I’m just not feeling it.

When I started this project in 2009 I was most definitely naive and idealistic.  I had just adopted my own first rescue dog and was full of enthusiasm. In my innocence, I thought that hard pressed animal rescues and charities would welcome this idea with open arms, particularly when the service was free and not competing in any way with their fund raising or even sponsorship efforts and only helping raise public awareness of the plight of all Irish animals in a new and engaging way.  I invited rescues, charities and the pounds to open a discussion of how we could better tackle the common problems they had and even offered my web development skills for free to try to help address them.  In reality, right from the start, I met with sometimes vehement opposition even including personal  and nasty abuse from a small but influential number of people and their allies who felt that they ‘owned’ the area of lost and found pets in Ireland.  The odd thing about this was that much of the opposition came from parties I had actually gone to privately previously for advice on how the site should operate, who were invited to co-operate and who were given early access to it for feedback purposes in the first place and indeed some of the abuse came for people I thought were friends.  None of this was about the welfare of pets, it was essentially a one-sided turf war.

In fact, to this day, the only charities who I feel have really embraced this idea in any way close to what I had originally envisioned are Galway SPCA and  Kildare & West Wicklow SPCA, both of whom kindly carry our listings.  We have also had great support from private entities such as Topdog.ie, counntryhounds.ie and whatswhat.ie who I guess weren’t caught up in the politics but as for the rest of the rescues, charities and pounds, the response has been at best ‘meh’.

Due to all the negativity and questioning of my motives from the start, I decided to back off and go my own way, opting to build out facilities on the site and to develop our own communities on the social networking sites and let the rest of the animal welfare community go their own way too – it would of course have been great (and easier) to have them on-board but at the end of the day, organisations make their own choices.  This strategy has worked out reasonably well, the project has grown substantially on zero budget, I have had a chance to experiment, learn and build my web development, SEO and community management skills, fun is had, support is given within the community and the odd pet gets reunited in the process.  I have even had some tentative interactions now from organisations  which were initially quite hostile to the project but by and large I think its fair to say, we have remained outside the greater animal welfare community and I frankly don’t think that has been a bad thing

But at the end of the day, no project is an island and I suppose it was inevitable that I was going to crash into that greater Irish animal welfare sector at large again eventually – it seems that time has come.

I am so down today because I am in utter despair at the state of this community in Ireland at present, very fearful for its future and frankly, I am angry.

In recent weeks here I have written a couple of pieces in relation to the ISPCA, Dogs Trust Ireland and Donedeal which at this point over 1,000 of you have read. I think its no secret therefore that I find it appalling that these two major charities, who I would assume, receive funding from the public largely on the understanding that they will take a principled stand on animal welfare issues, are apparently only too eager to give Donedeal animal welfare credibility via their very public support, even if it means thumbing their nose at another major venerable charity who has acted in this matter purely on principle in the process.  I have been invited by a very senior member of the ISPCA to have a private discussion on this issue, leaving the public who fund them out of the loop.  I politely declined.

To all intents and purposes, it seems as if somehow, one (relatively small) business in Ireland is backed by two of our largest animal welfare charities to allow a certain level of ongoing animal abuse in the course of its business operations as long as it is willing to provide some funding to approved projects and other gestures in return.  I can only surmise that the animals who continue to suffer are seen as just acceptable collateral damage. How many abuse cases are deemed acceptable, 5, 50, 500? Your guess is as good as mine – these arrangements have been made in private.

I’ve been told I don’t understand the nuances here.  To me, there are no nuances, you either support and endorse those who facilitate animal abuse or you do everything you can to oppose them.

I believe this is simple.   In situations where the interests of animals are at odds with the interests of businesses, all animal welfare charities have a duty to the public who fund them, to be clearly and indisputably on the side of the animals and those who seek to protect them,  not on the side of the businesses.  When that doesn’t happen, not only do the charities who disregard this principle lose credibility themselves but also the entire sector does too, and good people start to believe that it’s OK to make bad compromises when they watch the ground slip from beneath them as principles are quickly eroded for the sake of  ‘pragmatic arrangements’ without vision or ambition.

There was an article in the paper yesterday where the ISPCA called for a ban on ‘sulky’ racing.  One has to wonder, if the race organisers came to the ISPCA and offered to give 50% of race proceeds to a project of the ISPCA’s choosing, saying that horse injuries and deaths were relatively rare, would the ISPCA be as facilitating of them as it has been DoneDeal?  How can anyone credibly call for a ban for one activity that leads to abuse and not another?

That’s all bad enough, but what really breaks me here is the silence of the other animal welfare charities and rescues on this erosion of principles and frankly, the apathy of the public, yeah you.

It is not enough sometimes just to click ‘like’ on Facebook.  If you feel something is wrong here, you need to contact these charities and businesses and tell them you expect better.  Or maybe ye all really just don’t give a crap and the likes are really just more about being seen to care than actually caring.  Charities and rescues, are you really willing to be bought off for a few free ads and the lowest of the low budget spay/neutering awareness website replete with pet classifieds marketing blurb?  I simply can’t fathom why people aren’t up in arms about this.

You can call me  a self righteous, attention seeking whiner, I don’t care, I’ve been called worse in the life of this project and beyond it believe me. You can ask me who the hell I think I am to speak this way.  Who the hell are you?  I have spent well over 5 long years, 365 days per year, in my own time, and at my own expense, earning my right to speak my piece here, so suck it up.  If you have evidence to prove that any of what I say here is incorrect, let’s be having it, the comments are open.

I guess I am saying it is hard to run this, day in, day out for over 5 years from just the sheer grind, but even harder to run it in the face of such cynicism and apathy and now particularly against the backdrop of an Irish animal welfare sector where leading charities are apparently so lost.

But I am not looking for sympathy here, I am looking for honesty, integrity and action or even, at this point, just an ounce of inspiration and hope – today it’s hard to see it.

So, happy birthday folks.

 P.S. To keep up with developments or share your thoughts on this ongoing Irish animal welfare Donedeal funding/championing scandal check out  #petsb4profit on Twitter

Please Note:  Today, Thursday June 12th, I have been contacted by Dogs Trust to say that they do not receive funding from Donedeal with I am very happy to pass on.  However, I still have very serious concerns over the relationship between Dogs Trust Ireland and DoneDeal.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Just wanted to wish all our users and friends a happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s hoping you and your furry, feathered or scaled friends are feeling the love today!

Happy Valentine's Day animal lovers

For Irish animal lovers

Found a Dog? Don’t Take it Straight to the Pound

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Its impossible to say exactly how many of the found dogs listed here have actually been abandoned for one reason or another but its logical to assume that given the economic situation  in Ireland currently, that number is growing.

if you do find a dog and bring it to your local pound and if its not claimed within a mere 5 days on average, it will be euthenised. You give the dog a much better chance if you get your local rescue involved.  They are obliged to surrender strays to the pound but at least if they are involved they become aware of the status of the dog and can try to make arrangements to find the dog alternative accommodation.

So how do you locate your local rescues?  Irish Animal Shelters on Facebook maintain a list and www.irishanimals.ie also have contact details for many.

Here’s a short documentary on the topic of Irish dog pounds – be warned, it makes painful viewing.

Spay Week Ireland 2010, May 30th – June 6th

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Well, its that time of year again when all of us concerned with animal welfare in Ireland on a daily basis try to highlight the crises we have with abandoned and unwanted dogs and cats and the important role spaying and neutering  has to play in reducing this problem and improving the lives of all Irish animals.

Current conservative estimates put our daily dog destruction rate at 18 and while that is a definite improvement on previous years, we still have a long way to go.  The situation for cats is most likely a lot worse though it seems no official figures exist, anecdotal evidence clearly suggests that a cat’s life in Ireland is very cheap.

May 30th to June 6th 2010 - Spay Week IrelandAlready over on the Spay Week Ireland Facebook page, criticisms have been raised about the suitability of publicity photos depicting apparently healthy, well fed, cute pups with celebs – “I want a puppy!”.  The reasoning behind these shots from the organisers that these are the only kind of photos the media are likely to use is flimsy at best, patronises the media, and becomes even less credible when these same photos are given prominence on the organisation’s own website where they do have full control.  Truly a missed  communication opportunity.

But for me, the real disappointment here is that, despite the involvement of generous vets nationwide, there is no national voucher scheme in place.  Those who may be convinced by the coverage that neutering and spaying is the right way to go but who may not have the financial resources to cover the standard rates will be left to source subsidised services themselves with no points of contact for same on the Spay Ireland website or Facebook page.

I am sure highlighting shortcomings of this initiative will raise the ire of quite a few of those involved but that is not my intention.  I do not doubt that everyone’s heart is in the right place on this issue and do not question motives in any way.  My point is that it is difficult enough to sell the idea of spaying and neutering in Ireland at any time for cultural reasons, but particularly in these harsh economic times, anything we can do to make the right choice easier for people to make, should be done.