A warning on selling animals on Facebook has been issued against breeders who are taking advantage of the lockdown to peddle pets that could be sick or too young. Animal charities said that such social media transactions may come from extremely irresponsible breeders who are tapping the platform to scam people.

Although Facebook reiterated its guidelines stating that selling of animals between private individuals is strictly prohibited - an investigation by the BBC revealed that pets are indeed being sold through the platform.

One of the challenges for Facebook is dealing with advertisers who sell in closed groups. Many of these sellers advertise pets with some pedigree breeds selling for over £1,000. Some kittens and puppies are even offered with worldwide delivery service.

This has even prompted the Pet Advertising Advisory Group to publish a list of minimum standards for websites that sell animals. The list includes automated removal of adverts with blacklisted words and banning vendors who post illegal adverts.

As the second wave of coronavirus lockdowns grip housebound netizens, there has been an increase in the demand for pets. Prices of furry babies have sky-rocketed into the thousands at the same time a growing number of reported scams have piled up. Con artists asking for security deposits as well as shady advertisers offering certain breeds with papers are the usual suspects. Victims are said to have been scammed a total of £280,000 in just two months.

Unsuspecting pet buyers need to be wary about "security deposit" scams as some advertisements require non-refundable deposits. The deposit is meant to secure the pet of their choice, while assuring buyers with updated pics of the animal until they are claimed and collected.

Animal charity groups and advocates also cite how many underage kittens are being sold on Facebook that may have serious, life-threatening illnesses or "be so poorly socialised that they're not suitable as pets." There are many cases where kittens or puppies come from farms with inhumane conditions, which is why buyers should insist on viewing the animal with its mother.

This is why the RSPCA along with animal advocates urge people to consider adopting from a rescue centre first, instead of buying a pet.

Facebook said it was investigating examples the BBC investigating team had sent, and encouraged users to report any posts.

Labrador puppy
Imported dogs often carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans (file photo) REUTERS/Jason Lee