In a news story yesterday, the Ingham (Michigan) Animal Control issued a warning about listing pets “free to a good home” on the popular classifieds site Craigslist. The warning came after a horrible abuse story centered around a dog who was re-homed, unfortunately not to a good home, via a Craigslist ad. Duke, described as a small white pit bull, was re-homed through Craigslist when his former family could no longer keep him and listed him for free. Duke was given to a “nice” young couple, but was then picked up by animal control last April after a good seminarian called in a tip that the dog was being kicked by a teenage boy. The young couple who took in Duke were never found, and the poor dog will have a permanent limp due to his abuse.
Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated case. A search for “Craigslist” and “animal abuse” turns up countless stories of animals, often listed as “free to a good home”, ending up the victims of abuse. The warning issued by Ingham Animal Control is a message that should be heeded by all pet owners.
In most cases, it’s best not to give animals away for free. Small animals, such as kittens, rabbits, and even small puppies, can become free food for reptiles. At least most of those animals endure a quick, if not brutal, death. Even worse are the free, or cheap, animals who become the victims of dog fighting rings, laboratory testers, hoarders, and animal abusers. Many animals acquired for free (or very cheap) are simply resold, often at a much higher price.
Does this make Craigslist a bad place for posting pet related ads? Not necessarily. Craigslist can be a great place to buy and sell pet supplies, or to help promote information about a lost pet. Not all stories of pets re-homed through Craigslist have unhappy endings. There are many animals who were acquired through Craigslist who found wonderful, loving new homes. But it’s up to the person listing the pet to ensure that the animal is going to someone with good intentions.
If you list a pet for sale on Craigslist, it’s very important to screen any potential adopters. Make sure they are able to care for the animal – that they have the time and financials to devote to a new pet. Ask for references, both personal and vet. Make sure to collect contact information so that if, god forbid, something bad does happen you can instruct the police or animal control on how to find the pet’s new owners. And always listen to your gut.
As the Ingham Animal Control pointed out, if you are unable to keep your pet and no one you know (and trust) can care for him/her, you can surrender your pet to the shelter. It’s true that most shelters do euthanize animals they can’t find homes for after a certain amount of time. But if you’re faced with the options of your pet possibly being euthanized humanly or suffering abuse from the Craigslist buyer you didn’t have time to properly screen, the shelter seems like the lesser of the two evils.
If you are looking for a new pet, or are being faced with the difficult task of getting rid of a pet, visit this site for the NJSPCA’s listing of animal shelters in NJ.