Classifieds website Dubizzle is offering free certified accounts to registered animal shelters to encourage safe pet adoption after a surge in illegal sales on the online marketplace.
Security systems are also being upgraded more broadly to stop users being directed to phishing websites when clicking on links.
Trading in animals is illegal in the UAE without a licence and rescue centres must be certified by the Community Development Authority (CDA) to offer pets for adoption.
The new ‘Trusted by Dubizzle’ certification aims to offer peace of mind to those looking to adopt an animal, after reports of dogs sold illegally by unlicensed breeders in Dubai.
The Ras Al Khaimah Homely Petz business of Neil Anderson was targeted by illegal online sellers, who used his name as a cloak of authenticity to sell dogs via Dubizzle.
“Dubizzle needs to be proactive in this area and this is a start,” said Mr Anderson, a dog trainer.
“At the very least, anyone putting animals up for adoption on Dubizzle should be licensed correctly and legally registered with the CDA.
“Other criteria should include government affiliations for those organisations operating outside of Dubai.
“A CDA licence is not easy to get and for good reason.”
Criteria to attain a CDA licence to operate a non-profit civil society organisation in Dubai include a two-year financial plan, a list of founding members, official sponsors and a board of five trustees featuring at least one Emirati.
An annual licence fee is Dh2,020 ($550) and a CDA-approved local bank account is required before a civil organisation is announced in the Dubai government's Official Gazette.
“The CDA is against rescue groups charging for the animals they need to rehome,” said Mr Anderson.
“Recovering costs is one thing but groups must not be able to profit as there is no control over how that money is spent.
“Since Covid, there has been an explosion of illegal scams and pet breeders and the term ‘adoption’ has been manipulated.
“It should be illegal to transact animals for money and trade animals in any format online.
“Online scammers in cars, real estate and animals are the same – although ethically there is more of an argument for tighter regulations with pets.”
Similar measures were introduced in 2020 to regulate the site’s second-hand vehicle sales, with Dubizzle Pro providing expert advice to support buyers and sellers in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman.
Now, Dubizzle has joined forces with rescue group K9 Friends and RAK Animal Welfare to combat online fraud and illegal pet sales.
As part of the campaign, Dubizzle allows registered animal shelters access to free certified accounts with featured listings placed above new posts allowing prime visibility to help reduce the number of fraudulent adverts.
Advice from organisations certified as ‘Trusted by Dubizzle’ can help prospective pet owners.
To become eligible, groups must be listed as non-profit organisation on their licences and be legally authorised as a kennel or animal shelter in the UAE.
Agreements must have clear terms and conditions, with each organisation able to post adverts with pet details including medical history, existing behavioural issues around children and other animals, its age, sex and breed.
To qualify, all adverts should have a minimum of four photos per pet.
Dubizzle’s marketing director Sahar Khan said the company hoped the changes would increase transparency in online pet transactions.
“We take pet adoption and the authenticity of such advertisements very seriously,” she said.
“This partnership will help pet lovers find their companions in a more transparent and authentic manner through registered and reliable adoption centres that are as deeply committed to animal welfare as we are.”
Dubizzle adds new features to fight fraud
Meanwhile, a new partnership with Emirates Post hopes to increase understanding for users to guard against fake postings and fraud.
Although Dubizzle does not offer the option of arranging delivery through Emirates Post, scammers were targeting users with fraudulent messages offering fake postal services.
The joint partnership included social media campaigns on Instagram and Facebook in static posts and video, and push notifications to educate customers that no delivery services were offered through collaborations between Dubizzle and Emirates Post.
Other new services include a ‘hide my number’ option to protect customer details and training of staff to identify fraud.
"Such partnerships are extremely valuable to us and will help us continue to serve the community as the UAE’s largest online classifieds platform,” said Ms Khan.
“In line with efforts to continuously combat online fraud, Dubizzle is upgrading its security systems to ensure users are no longer directed to phishing websites.
“This will make it a safer and transparent place to unite buyers and sellers.”