I've been pondering for a while over Gumtree - it's a community website for people to advertise, buy and sell on etc. Two of my dear friends, and trustees of our charity, follow it closely and frequently tell me about how many animals are listed on there for sale, 'free to a good home' or 'free with a hutch' etc.
In fact, one of them did a home visit for a lady who adopted guinea pigs from us, became good friends with her, and several months down the line the lady has over 30 small furries she has 'rescued' from Gumtree that are all in various states of neglect and ill health and she is now close to bankruptcy due to the vet bills.
The other one wrote to complain to Gumtree about how irresponsible it was of them to allow this to go and Gumtree said that if enough people complained they would consider a ban. I asked her how easy it was to find the contact info and she said it took her ages to find and gave me this...
Try: http://manchester.gumtree.com/cgi-bin/help.pl?f=6&s=12 or go to Manchester Gumtree Click on HELP link at bottom of page Click on Feedback Under the 'Suggestions new features' heading you can click to send a message direct.
All this has reminded me of the early days of Ebay. I remember being enraged many years ago by exactly the same thing. Lots of people complained, myself included, and eventually they banned the sale of live animals and loop holes such as 'free with a hutch'.
Now I am at the sharp end of animal rescue I don't know really whether these forums are promoting irresponsible pet ownership or offering a lifeline to animals in need.
Let me clarify.....I spend my days inundated with calls from people wanting to rehome their animals, I bare the brunt of their frustration when I explain we only take inspector rescued animals and they have to contact local animal sanctuaries. I more often than not get blasted and get told that all the local animal charities are full and not putting anymore on their waiting lists (one I know currently has 50 dogs on its waiting list!). The inevitable response I get is "what am I supposed to do then?".
In some instances people have a genuine case for needing to rehome their animal, and it is these ones I feel really bad for. One lady, yesterday, said she had exhausted all options and to no avail and asked me if it were wrong of her to have her two 10 year old cats put to sleep. I reassured she was not wrong if there was no alternative and told her that the RSPCA has to resort to these measures sometimes when they cannot find any space for a rescued animal.
This lady is rare because most people I talk to would be more likely to abandon their animal than find the money to do this. I'm sure people would tell me they would rather abandon their pet because they love it too much to kill it but in reality what is more responsible pet ownership than taking control and facing up to the problem and dealing with it, however grim or heartbreaking it may be?
I think a big problem is neutering too. Either people won't have it done for a lack of education and imposing human thoughts on to their animals (I hear, 'I'm not cutting his manhood off',' all too frequently). It is also because many people can't afford it. There is plenty of help from animal charities if you are on benefits but if not it can cost upwards of £200 to have a bitch spayed. But I think this is a whole other debate.
So, this is why I find myself saying 'I just don't know'. I abhor the selling of animals and the whole idea of making money from them from breeding etc but I am beginning to question the role that websites like Gumtree play in animal rehoming. I can't help but wonder how many more animals would be abandoned or left to die if there weren't forums like Gumtree. It seems a double edged sword to me and I'm not sure whether it is a lesser of evils or promoting irresponsibility.
I know one thing for sure - people need to stop viewing animals as commodities and ephemera and take responsibility for their decision making and actions.