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eBay shelves plans for live pet listings

Company backs off after thousands of eBay members condemn the move, voicing concern over potential animal cruelty.

eBay has dropped plans to facilitate sales and adoptions of live pets on its site and may instead form a partnership with a pet adoption site after thousands of eBay members attacked the announced move.

The online auction company posted a notice on its discussion board on Friday asking members to weigh in on the plan. The notice said eBay planned to launch a live pets classified service early next year that would allow people to advertise animals for sale for a listing fee. The service would not be "transactional," meaning eBay would not take part in actual sales or permit bidding, the notice said.

The plan touched off a virtual uproar on the discussion board, with more than 3,000 responses. Most people posting messages opposed the move, saying the sale and adoption of pets over the Internet is generally a bad idea.

"I would sure hate to have to start boycotting eBay as I have enjoyed my auctions with the service, but that is exactly what will happen if they start listing dogs for sale," one discussion board member, Linda, wrote. "I'm sure that legions of animal lovers would follow suit. Don't do it--too many abuses are already being made possible by the Internet."

Critics of eBay's plan worried that it would help support irresponsible breeders, or "puppy mills," that treat animals poorly. And without meeting animals before purchasing them, pet owners may end up with problem animals, which can lead to abandonment, said Karin Jaffie, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco SPCA, a pet adoption group.

Others fear that the Internet lets unscrupulous buyers skirt the screening process used at many shelters. Screening is designed to save animals from gruesome fates, such as being used as bait in dog fights or as test subjects in a research lab.

These concerns led eBay to scrap plans on Monday for enabling pet sales, but the company said pet adoption listings were still a possibility. Now, the company is backing away from that too.

"While we had hoped to be able to find common ground on the issue of facilitating local shelter adoptions on eBay.com, it appears that sentiment among our members is strongly going the other way," Lori Pretzer, pet supplies category manager for eBay, wrote in a note to eBay members. "In short, the dominant point of view we've heard is that you do not want pet listings--whether for adoption from shelters or from commercial breeders--on eBay.com. Consequently, we will not pursue the idea further."

Instead, eBay is discussing a partnership with PetFinder, an online listing service for pet adoptions through local shelters, Pretzer said.

The Web appears to be an ever more popular place to shop for pets. Pets are the fastest-growing category on LiveDeal.com, a free local classifieds site. The company said last week that "dogs" and "puppies" are the two most searched terms on its site. Craigslist, an online listing service partially owned by eBay, also allows pet ads.