Just this August, a small dog was in a park in Massachusetts with injuries she would never recover from. The veterinarian who examined the dog that became known as “Puppy Doe” determined that her fatal injuries were the result of obscenehuman cruelty and torture. Soon after, an online petition calling for “justice” for Puppy Doe demanded that Craigslist “only allow registered shelters and rescues to post adoptable pets so it is never again a part of tragedies like what happened to Puppy Doe” since it was discovered Puppy Doe was rehomed through Craigslist. The petition implies that all shelters or rescue groups “conduct background checks to make sure animals are placed in loving homes.” While most responsible rescue groups will conduct some sort of background check to do their best to ensure the pet is going to a good home, many shelters simply don’t have that luxury.
While I fully understand and support fighting animal cruelty, I don’t agree with placing the blame where it doesn’t belong. Craigslist, though hugely popular, isn’t the only place people advertise their pets. Newspapers, Facebook, and other social media sites, and other websites like Hoobly are full of posts from people trying to find a new home for their pets. If the owners don’t find a home for their pet, they will usually take them to a shelter. Since shelters and rescues are often full, sometimes desperate owners will simply dump the unwanted animal in someone else’s yard or somewhere like a dump site in hopes that someone will take them in.
More from Dogster Magazine: Shocking Cruelty Against a Dog Called Puppy Doe Brings Calls for Change
Craigslist’s CEO Jim Buckmaster weighed in on the Puppy Doe tragedy and petition through the CL blog. He states, “a petition wants to ban tens of millions of CL users from rehoming pets, dooming countless healthy animals to needless euthanization. Direct rehoming via classifieds is a solution, not a problem … countless pets find good homes on CL.” He’s right. How many of you have used Craigslist to find your new pet? How many others have used CL to rehome a pet due to unforeseen circumstances? Wouldn’t your story count as a success story? Absolutely!
Back when we were looking for a companion for our dog, Axle, we searched shelters, rescues, and the classifieds including (you guessed it!) Craigslist. We found a dog we were interested in on Craigslist in a neighboring city. After talking with the owner and exchanging lots of pictures of Axle and the cats, we arranged a meeting. The rest is history — history you’ve already read about! I took to my Facebook page to find out more about how people feel about using Craigslist to find/rehome animals.
The responses I received probably won’t surprise you — the majority that responded had adopted through Craigslist, rather than used it to rehome one of their animals. Of those, very few had to answer a lot of questions to obtain the animal. Now, these people aren’t animal abusers, by no means, but their experience reveals the core issue behind rehoming animals on your own, regardless of the vehicle used — not putting any effort into researching potential new homes. One person’s view on CL was that “the problem is that most of the people that advertise their pets on this list don’t have a clue…how to properly screen an adopter. Consequently, many other people. . . take advantage of these pet owners’ ignorance.” Another responder stated, “We search Craigslist for poodles and poodle mixes in need and then write the owners offering our rehome services. Quite a few are taking us up on it — usually a few days after the initial ad and after they’ve run through the nutcases that call.”
More from Dogster Magazine: Puppy Doe Case: A Man Is Held on 11 Counts of Animal Cruelty
If you must rehome your dog, the ASPCA recommends trying to find a home yourself, rather than leaving him to fend for himself or taking up a space at an already crowded shelter. The ASPCA has some great tips on rehoming your dog, but I found the guidelines posted by the HSUS simpler and easier to follow.
Know your dog. Gather up all pertinent health information about your dog, including recent vet visits and health information. Potential adopters need to know exactly what they’re getting into. Is your dog chronically ill? Does he have behavioral issues to consider? Lying about any of these issues might get your dog a home faster, but also increases the likelihood that the new home won’t be a forever one.
Spay/neuter. If your pet is not already spayed/neutered, we won’t judge you, but we might think you’re a backyard breeder. It’s a good idea to go and and do that prior to rehoming your dog, if you can afford to do so.
Advertise through friends and family first. It’s much easier to check references on people you know than it is on strangers.
Download and save a sample adoption questionnaire to help you ask the right questions. Where will the dog spend his time? Have they had dogs before? What other animals or people will the dog have to adjust to living with?
Go with your gut. If, at any time, you get an uneasy feeling while screening a potential adopter, even if it’s the day they are supposed to pick up the dog, don’t be afraid to back out. While you may be on a time restraint, you owe it to your dog to find the best home possible.
More from Dogster Magazine: Looking for a Dog on Craigslist? Run Screaming If You See Any of These Red Flags
If we take away options like Craigslist and other websites for pets looking for a new home, desperate owners will turn to other, less savory options for their pets. Instead, we should reach out to owners trying to rehome their pets online. Encourage them to spay/neuter, if they have not done so and are able. If you can, offer to be an assistant in screening potential adopters and/or arranging for spay/neuter assistance. Gently educate them on the potential dangers of sending their beloved pet home without bothering to check out the potential owner first.
Photo: Young woman working on a gray laptop by Shutterstock