Online puppy ads: Don’t get ‘catfished’

Just like online dating, University of Adelaide researchers encourage people to be smart and ‘go with their gut’ when browsing and responding to online advertisements of dogs and puppies for sale.

School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences animal behaviour experts, studying the compliance of online pet ads, have calculated more than $4.5 million in dogs and puppies for sale in just two days’ worth of Gumtree listings. More than two thirds of the online ads were puppies.

Dog and computer Image by Martine Auvray from Pixabay

Image by Martine Auvray from Pixabay

Lead author of the new research Ana Goncalves Costa, says while a majority of online ads were compliant with the respective Australian state or territory guidelines, many were not.

“Online markets are much bigger than a lot of people realise and there are a lot of concerns with online sales of dogs and puppies,” she says.

“It is incredibly difficult for buyers to notice the difference between a legitimate online seller and a scam or an unethical breeder.

“Our research found some breeder identifications that were false; and some ads where there was no way to confirm that the breeder ID actually belonged to the same person posting the ad.”

Puppies in trolley

Shopping for a new best friend? Experts say 'be smart and go with your gut’ when browsing and responding to online advertisements of dogs and puppies for sale.


While it pays to be diligent when hunting for a new family pet, Ms Goncalves Costa’s research found that regulations “can be effective” in ensuring advertisement transparency and accuracy. 

“Our research found that in the area of microchipping - Victoria, which was the only state requiring all dogs to be microchipped prior to sale and sellers to include their chip numbers in ads - had more than 90 per cent compliance and higher rates of microchipping than other states,” she says.

“So, what we're seeing is that which regulations we choose are important, because some are more effective than others. 

“Chipping early - prior to sale - and increasing transparency of compliance by including the chip numbers required in ads, makes a big difference.”

Ms Goncalves Costa’s findings provide evidence that further research into regulatory compliance in online dog advertisements in Australia is required.

“It's still a bit of a wild west online and good, thoughtful regulations and research will help us make these platforms safer for both buyers and for the animals in the system.”

The research is published in the journal Animals and is co-authored by researchers Torben Nielsen, Eleonora Dal Grande, and Susan Hazel from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, and Jonathan Tuke from the School of Mathematical Sciences.

Tagged in Research, School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Animal Science