AN aristocrat and animal rights campaigner has called for a ban on pet sales on the hugely popular internet site Gumtree.
The Dowager Duchess of Hamilton said the web was the wrong place to sell “live creatures”.
Kay Hamilton – who is also chairwoman of Scottish Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue – said the sale of animals on sites such as Gumtree was leading to an explosion in the number of abandoned and ill-treated pets.
Gumtree allows users to place free adverts, including those that offer animals for the sale of animals.
The site insists there are strict rules on adverts but its owners, eBay, ban the sale of live animals.
Among the 1.4 million adverts currently on Gumtree, there are dozens of dogs for sale, including a four-year-old poodle in South Lanarkshire for £650 and a chug puppy for £600 in Dundee.
But critics warn that animals traded online often go unchecked – leading to un-micro chipped pets that have not been neutered and are allowed to breed.
The Duchess said: “I do not think the internet is a medium for selling live creatures.
“Many pups are under the age they should be separated from their mother, no home checks are done in the way a responsible breeder would do.
“I would urge Gumtree to ban the trade in live animals.”
The Scottish SPCA said today it would not encourage pet lovers to buy animals from the internet and backed the move for a pet ban on Gumtree.
Last year the Scottish SPCA took more than 180,000 calls – almost 500 a day, to its helpline, compared to 146,000 in 2009.
Hamilton also criticised the current fashion for owning a cross-breed dog.
Designer hybrid dog breeds, popular with A-listers such as Uma Thurman and Tiger Woods, have become trendy, including chiweenies (dachshunds with bat-like chihuahua ears) and goldendoodles (golden retriever-poodles).
Hamilton said these breeds were unnecessary and pets were often abandoned or put up for sale because of their unpredictable behaviour and high upkeep.
She said: “As with many of these crazes, dogs are quite frequently abandoned. I imagined like all crazes this will die a death.
“Why would you pay up to £500 for a crossbreed? Go to your dog shelter and choose one.”
Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We would strongly discourage anyone from buying a pet online which will then be ‘delivered’ or where the buyer meets the seller in a car park or some similar location.
“This sort of transaction is purely about making money and the welfare of the animals involved is of little or no concern to the sellers.”
He added: “Anyone buying a pet online must visit the seller and see the pups or kittens with their mother.
“They should be able to see the living environment they have been reared in and they should be given a copy of the animal’s veterinary records which will detail the necessary vaccinations and health checks required from birth.”
A Gumtree.com spokeswoman said: “We take the issue of animal welfare very seriously and have introduced many new changes to the Pets category over the last 18 months that reflect our duty as a responsible website.
“We work alongside the UK’s leading animal and pet charities to continually update and improve our systems, and have been advised by animal welfare experts that it is important to keep the category open. An increasing number of pet rehoming centres are now actually using the site to help find new homes for animals that they are caring for.”
The spokeswoman said any issues of abuse are investigated by their dedicated safety team and appropriate action taken.
She added: “We currently only allow users to post two pet litters in any one year to prevent puppy farmers or breeders from using our site.”