Amid photos of cute pets posted to Instagram by obsessive owners are an alarming number of equally as sweet-looking dogs and cats wearing for-sale signs.
As the hastags #dogforsale and #kittentogoodhome continue to proliferate on the photo-sharing app, more and more live animals are being advertised for purchase, a concerning trend that has animal rights advocates pushing Instagram to take a serious stand.
“Web sales of animals are dangerous,” Heather Carlson, PETA communications manager, wrote in an email to HuffPost. “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.”
Another major concern is how advertising pets on Instagram will directly affect the fate of shelter dogs and cats. For every pet that’s sold by a breeder online, according to Carlson, another hopeful pet in a shelter loses out on getting adopted.
The caption reads: For Sale Male Shih Tzu Princess type, Tricolor Dob: Dec. 05 2012 Active and playfull Good appetite 2 balls 2x 5in1, 3x dewormed, 1x anti rabies No Papers, but pure bred. LAST PRICE : 5.5k
PETA, and other advocacy groups, want Instagram -- which boasts more than 100 million users -- to respond to such sales with the same deterring policies that Amazon, Craigslist and eBay have implemented.
But Instagram has been elusive in its response, and part of the problem is that, technically, posting a puppy for purchase isn’t actually illegal.
"Instagram has a clear set of community guidelines which make it clear what is and isn't allowed," Instagram said in a statement to MSN News. "We ask that people do not share photos or videos of illegal content. We encourage people who come across content they find uncomfortable using the report tools next to every photo or video on Instagram."
To force Instagram to take this issue more seriously, Care2 has launched a petition, which is urging the photo-sharing app to flat-out stop allowing the sale of animals on the site.
To be sure, the Animal Welfare Act does provide some protection for pets being sold.
According to the act, the USDA is responsible for entities that purchase or transport live animals. The organization must ensure that the pets are transported safely, treated humanely and that the owners are safe from theft. The act also prohibits any form of animal fighting.
But on the World Wide Web, such transactions still remain unregulated, a distressing reality animal rights groups hope to reform.
"This is a shocking situation to see animals being bred for money and traded like commodities," Andrew Tyler, director of the UK's Animal Aid told the Daily Mail. "The easier you make it to buy and sell animals online, the more casual and callous an approach people will take. We live in an age where people see animals as disposable and it's not right."
Sign the Care2 petition here.