Montreal-area librarian Barbara Lapointe has gathered more than 104,000 signatures on a petition asking Kijiji Canada to stop allowing pet sales on the site and encourage only adoptions from registered shelters and rescue organizations.
Lapointe says the current policy allows venders to turn tidy profits by selling pets produced in dog or cat mills and other unsanitary, mass-production facilities.
Letters sent to Lapointe show that six companies, including Toyota Canada and two of the country's major banks, have supported the campaign by pulling their ads from Kijiji's pet sale pages.
She says Craigslist and other classified sites have refused to allow breeders to post ads and argues Kijiji should follow suit in order to protect animals.
But the company says it has no plans to stop hosting animal sales ads, arguing that banning such posts would not be an effective way to stop animal mistreatment.
Kijiji Canada spokesman Shawn McIntyre said unscrupulous breeders would simply find a new home for their ads, arguing potential vendors are subject to more scrutiny then they might be with another online classified firm.
"We just don't think that the Internet is going anywhere, so we don't see any point in shutting down that category and just making those people go somewhere else," McIntyre said in a telephone interview.
McIntyre said Kijiji has taken steps to tighten up oversight of its pet sales pages in the two years since Lapointe launched her petition.
As of last year, prospective dog sellers are required to pay a nominal fee of $5 in order to post an ad, a step McIntyre says discourages impulsive sales. There are currently no such fees in place for other types of pet sales.
McIntyre also says Kijiji staff combs postings and investigates ones that raise red flags, such as venders offering more than two breeds for sale or making animals available too many times in one year.
But Lapointe's petition argues that the very presence of such rules signals that Kijiji is aware of the scope of the issue and simply unwilling to take more decisive action.
"The problem is it's really easy for unethical breeders to disguise themselves online," the petition reads. "There is no way Kijiji would be able to catch all the bad posts. If thousands of us send messages to them, I'm sure they'll do the right thing."
Lapointe says unsuspecting buyers may find themselves the owners of pets who become sick or traumatized as a result of the conditions they were raised in. Other pet owners, she said, may find themselves unable to verify an animal's pedigree thanks to vendors who shut up shop after closing a sale.
Canada's laws can't do much to address the issue, she said, adding that there are virtually no regulations to help distinguish between puppy mills and reputable animal breeders.
Rebeka Breder, an animal rights lawyer with Vancouver's Boughton Law, confirmed that Canada has virtually no national standards for regulating breeding operations or taking action against those that may be found wanting.
She said animal sales are generally handled under the country's patchwork of municipal bylaws, adding some cities have taken steps to prevent brick-and-mortar pet stores from selling animals on site.
Kijiji's refusal to pull their ads, she says, hinders efforts to fix a system that's already badly broken.
"I think it contributes to the purchase of dogs coming from horrible, cruel and inhumane conditions," she said of Kijiji's policy. "It's a lot easier for people to buy a dog online and not think about the consequences than it is for people going to a pet store where they can physically see a dog right then and there and maybe start thinking about the issue before they go to the till."
Lapointe's campaign has won support from some of the country's largest corporations. TD Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Toyota Canada, Tangerine Bank, National Bank of Canada and shopping site Zulily have all pulled their ads from Kijiji's pet sale pages, according to company correspondences sent to Lapointe.
McIntyre said Kijiji is open to adjusting its existing process, but said it has no plans to implement changes that should fall under Canadian legislation.
"It's unfortunate that there isn't stronger laws in place to restrict the sale of animals," he said. "We just do what we can to restrict ads on our site without putting ourselves at risk and without putting our community at risk."
On the web: https://www.change.org/p/kijiji-canada-stop-puppy-mills-and-prohibit-the-sale-of-household-pets
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