The online selling website, DoneDeal, has temporarily suspended advertisements for the sale of dogs in the wake of gardaí highlighting a number of dog thefts in recent months.
The company said it had taken the decision to temporarily suspend the dogs section on its website as a result of discussions with animal welfare organisations and recent unprecedented demand from advertisers in Ireland.
“This will allow us to focus on introducing further solutions that limit the possibility of improper dog adverts being listed on DoneDeal,” it added.
Animal welfare groups have expressed concern that stolen dogs are subsequently offered for sale online on various websites.
Gardaí have made a number of seizures in recent weeks of stolen dogs including the recovery of 10 animals during a search operation in Rathkeale, Co Limerick last Saturday.
In a message posted on its website, DoneDeal said it was working closely with several animal welfare organisations including the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Department of Agriculture to comply with
legislation and meet standards set out by the Irish Pet Advertising Advisory Group.
The company said it took its responsibilities as an advertising platform very seriously and would continue to introduce measures to improve animal welfare and advertising transparency in Ireland.
However, DoneDeal expressed concern that the suspension of its dogs section might push the sale of dogs offline which could lead to reduced transparency.
DoneDeal said it was not possible for its customer service team to manually review every offer placed on its website given it carries over 200,000 individual ads each month.
It acknowledged it was forced to rely on “technical measures” to try and block improper content, while also operating a “notice and takedown” policy in response to any concerns raised by users of the website.
DoneDeal said any ads which breached its terms and conditions would be taken down immediately.
It also pointed out it had taken a number of other measures to improve traceability including the introduction of a two-stage phone verification process for advertisers in its dogs section.
“We are working hard to find the right, next technical solutions to improve animal welfare in Ireland though there are limits to what is possible for use along as a publisher,” DoneDeal said.
It added: “Our intention is to prevent the possibility of advertisers making false statements but in some cases we rely on users of DoneDeal to report these advertisements to us.”
The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals welcomed the initiative taken by Done Deal, describing the temporary ban on advertisements for the sale of dogs as “a good step forward”.
However, DSPCA spokesperson, Gillian Bird, said the organisation was still opposed to all online sales of dogs.
"There are still some other sites where unscrupulous breeders can advertise dogs for sale," Ms Bird remarked.
She claimed the big issue for animal welfare groups was the lack of traceability associated with online sales which made them attractive for unscrupulous breeders and operators of “puppy farms”.
Although new legislation has come into effect requiring advertisements for the sale of dogs to carry the microchip number of the animal, Ms Bird expressed concern that the requirement was not being monitored by all advertisers or the Department of Agriculture.
Since February 1st, anyone selling five or more pets per annum must also register sales with the Department of Agriculture.
The DSPCA has advised people wishing to obtain a dog as a pet to go through a breeder registered with the Irish Kennel Club or one of the approved animal rescue centres.
A total of 120 dogs were reported as stolen in the year up to July 15th. The total number of dogs recorded as stolen last year was 205, though gardaí believe the theft of many animals goes unreported.