UK classifieds platform Gumtree has recently announced that it will be introducing a compulsory paywall, in a bid to deter unscrupulous operators from misusing the platform and discourage the ‘casual’ trading of animals online.

Since 7 August, anyone wishing to post an advert in Gumtree’s Pets category will be required to pay a nominal fee of £2.99.

The platform currently complies with 18 minimum standards for the rehoming of pets set out by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) – a UK advisory group made up of 23 animal welfare organisations, trade associations and the veterinary profession – that promotes responsible pet advertising and the safe trading of animals via online adverts.

But despite this, illegal pet traders have continued to circumvent systems across the industry.

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director and Chair of PAAG Paula Boyden said, “It has long been our concern that animals are being exploited by traders, with unscrupulous operators setting up fake profiles on classifieds platforms to hide this from unsuspecting buyers. Animals are often bred illegally by criminal gangs and frequently have health problems as a result of profit being put before their welfare. Furthermore, many pets are being illegally imported into the country but their backgrounds are being concealed from the buyer which is deeply worrying.”

Gumtree hopes that by setting up this paywall it will create an additional obstacle and help to identify illegal operators more easily.

The new measure follows in the footsteps of Canada’s leading online classifieds site Kijiji – part of the eBay classifieds Group, which includes Gumtree – which introduced a similar paywall policy in 2014 and reported a decline in the incidents of abuse.

Gumtree’s General Manager Matt Barham said, “For the first time in our 18-year history, we have taken the deliberate and purposeful step to shift away from our traditional ‘free for all users’ model in the Pets category in a bid to rid Gumtree of illegal pets trading. This is a measure we have imposed on ourselves not because we are required to do so by government or our colleagues in the animal welfare industry, but because we believe it is the right thing to do. Gumtree is and always has been firmly committed to making sure our platform is as safe as possible for rehoming pets and this measure marks the latest milestone in our journey to improve safety for Gumtree users.”

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