Animals and the Net
BY SUSAN WELDON, SPECIAL TO THE WINDSOR STARAPRIL 21, 2012
In 2010, amid pressure from authorities concerned about prostitution and public concerns about safety, one Internet site closed its adult services section, under protest. Other online classifieds, recognizing the risk, soon followed suit.
The Internet continues to be a haven for scammers and thieves, but also a great place to find bargains. Buyer beware.
But there's one category like no other - animals. Unlike used refrigerators and '98 Chevys, animals are living beings, and subject to different rules. While puppy millers rejoice at increased markets, bylaw and natural resources officers cringe at the explosion of illegal activity.
Many sites that offer animal services do little regulation. User reports of illegal ads are often ignored, and sites do little to curb the sales of dangerous animals and wildlife.
Last year in Nova Scotia, someone was caught selling a fawn online. The ensuing public outrage was not at the sheer stupidity of a person taking a wild creature into their home as a pet, nor indignation about the ease with which they used the Internet to traffic wildlife. Rather, people were angry that their tax dollars were being used to actually enforce the law and protect natural resources.
Shortly afterwards, in Alberta, an Internet ad led to a fullout SWAT assault to retrieve a number of endangered prairie rattlesnakes from known drug dealers who were selling the snakes online.
In Ontario, online wildlife violations number thousands per year, selling everything from ivory, wild meat and moose heads to painted and snapping turtles, or worse, to various endangered species.
MNR simply can't keep up, and depletion of wildlife occurs either through ignorance of or disdain for the laws and, in some cases, from people illegally hunting/harvesting for profit. When perpetrators are caught, it's the authorities who are criticized, not the people causing the problem. And rarely, if ever, is criticism directed at the companies that offer online access but fail to regulate it.
Not all classified sites allow sales of animals or animal products, but among those that do, the attitude is that buyers and sellers are responsible for knowing the law, and that it's not their responsibility to stop people from selling anacondas, alligators, venomous snakes or wildlife.
They further argue that since they remove ads when requested by authorities, they're doing nothing wrong.
In fact, they are facilitating trafficking and failing to exercise due diligence in regulating their profitable services.
Rather, they shift the regulatory responsibility and time investment to bylaw and natural resource officers, who must then investigate, thus directing taxpayer dollars toward Internet investigations and away from other duties, whereupon MNR gets criticized for problems created by corporations.
These sites could remedy this situation in any number of ways, either through technology or through appropriate site monitoring. The question becomes "why don't they monitor their sites better?" The answer is simple: They don't want to.
Removing illegal ads results in emails from disgruntled customers, and they don't want that.
They could do a better job of education upfront, but instead bury warnings in fine print near the bottom of the page, or in the terms of service, which nobody reads anyway.
They know, for example, that it is illegal to sell native turtles in Ontario. They quite simply wash their hands of any responsibility in the matter. They don't care if taxpayers pick up the resulting bill, as long as the number of ads on their site grows.
The taxpayers deserve better, not to mention the wildlife.
Susan Weldon lives in Windsor and is a social psychologist.
© Copyright © The Windsor Star
Pets and the net
2 replies to this topic
Posted 21 April 2012 - 07:45 PM
Great article written by a friend of mine about online animal sales and the sales of illegal wildlife. Its a major problem, especially on kijiji and has become increasingly more common inour area.
Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:16 PM
it amazes me how bold some people are... I mean really to put something for sale online that's illegal all it takes is the wrong person to answer that ad and you're busted!
Posted 22 April 2012 - 08:46 PM
People are flat out balsy o the point of stupidity with pet ads. Last week someone was trying to sell rattle snakes, another snapping turtles and another baby kittens for snake food ugh!