As of this writing, there are 1,974 photo results on Instagram for the hashtag #dogforsale. I'm guessing at least a few of these are tagged for joking reasons, like the image of the very bad boxer puppy posed next to the couch he'd apparently chewed to smithereens, but plenty of these tags are clearly intended to serve a legitimate advertising purpose. You can by a purebred Yorkie in Miami for $700, a pit/lab mix in Ohio for $200, or a Husky in Denver for $500.
Posting photos of pets for sale isn't illegal, but some are pressuring Instagram to ban the practice. In fact, one person went so far as to launch a nearly 24,000-signature-strong petition titled "Instagram: Stop Allowing the Sale of Animals for Slaughter and Ritual Sacrifice!"
Okay, wait: slaughter and ritual sacrifice?
The petition claims that all the animals tagged with #forsale tags will inevitably meet a tragic end, and goes on to say:
Besides the obvious grim fates for the animals being sold, this trend has several long-term negative effects on animal welfare and the fate of society as a whole. Animal sales will encourage people to breed animals carelessly, and consumers may develop an addiction to cruelty and sadism which would threaten their neighbors and their neighbors' pets.
Digital Trends says that Instagram is becoming an unwitting puppy mill advertiser, and that by purchasing a pet via online advertisement, you could be getting into all sorts of murky moral territory:
There’s a thing now called “pet flipping” wherein unsuspecting pets wandering the streets are picked up by random individuals, and instead of being returned to their rightful owners, the pets are advertised online and are sold to the highest bidder. How can you be sure that the animal you’re thinking of getting is not already someone else’s pet, who was lost but never found?
PETA has condemned Instagram's pet sale photos, saying,
Web sales of animals are dangerous. It's impossible to ensure that these vulnerable animals are headed to responsible, loving homes, where they will receive proper social, physical, and veterinary care, and online ads appeal to impulse buyers who likely won't give serious thought to the lifelong commitment needed to provide an animal with stability.
Animal advocates also point out the fact that prospective pet owners should always consider adoption first, an opinion that's shared by The Humane Society of the United States.
So far Instagram isn't commenting on the situation, and frankly, I don't blame them. Should they really be forced into a position of trying to ban these types of photos, which are perfectly legal? Should we really assume that every $700 Yorkie is going to be instantly sacrificed in a darkly Satanic ritual? Are we so intolerant of individual choice that we want to stop pet sales altogether in favor of forcing people to adopt rescue animals from shelters? And how are these types of advertisements really any different from classified ads or websites like PuppyFind.com?
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of adopting pets. My second rescue cat is winding her way around my feet as I type this, and the best dog I've ever had the joy of sharing my life with was an adopted adult Lab. But the fact is that plenty of folks choose to purchase their pets, and while it may be impossible to ensure the animals are coming from -- and going into -- a loving environment, I don't think Instagram should get called out for making it possible for sellers and buyers to connect.
What do you think of people using Instagram to sell pets?
Image via jronaldlee/Flickr