Don’t Blame Craigslist for Abused ‘Puppy Doe’

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

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This post was written by Meghan Lodge, regular contributor to Dogster Magazine.

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Valentina R.
Valentina R.6 months ago

Don't buy dogs online.

Christine Jones
Christine Jones9 months ago

Very thought-provoking article and has made me think twice about the pros and cons of Craigslist and other rehoming avenues. In an ideal world no pet would ever have to be rehomed but sometimes it just can't be helped, e.g. when the owner has died or gone into care. Makes me so angry that people deliberately seek out an animal that is already down on its luck, just to abuse it. RIP poor little Puppy Doe and may your abuser get what's coming to him.

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne Brownabout a year ago

thanks for sharing :)

Mary Beth M.
MaryBeth M.about a year ago

Yogesh K: I agree wholeheartedly! And sadly, after being involved in rescue, there are even worse excuses: the cat no longer goes with new furniture; the old dog who has shown loyalty for 12 yrs is 'no fun' anymore-they want a puppy; the grandkids are afraid of the dog, so the housedog is now banished to the outdoor shed-24/7 and has to be rescued by Animal Control from a life of hell; or the dog tied to the kitchen table for 11 yrs is just not wanted anymore, and on and on. If only rescues had to deal ONLY with those with no choice: pet owners who are facing fatal illness and cannot find a home for their beloved pet or have become too disabled to care for them; the family who has lost it all, house, car, job and has no where to keep their beloved pet. If only those were the only situations that rescues had to deal with, the numbers would be far more manageable.

Michael A.
Michael A.1 years ago


Kim Janik
Kim Janik1 years ago

Kudos to Yogesh K!

Yogesh Khandke
Yogesh Khandke1 years ago

Hey, here's an idea. How about EVERYONE who ever gets a pet of any kind is responsible for that pet for the rest of their natural lives. There should be no ads for re-homing pets ... period. I'm sick and tired of hearing the excuses people have for giving up their pet: I'm moving, I'm divorced, I didn't know it would grow that big, I can't handle it, the kids are bored of it, the kids are going to college, we want to travel, we're moving into an apartment. Well, guess what, if you don't already know it I'll tell you now, if you're considering getting a pet you better think about ALL those things otherwise don't get one. It is as easy as that. If your pet is misbehaving, then train it. If you're moving, take it with you. If you're getting a divorce, one of you take it. If the kids are bored of a pet, don't let them have one to begin with. These are not throw away toys. I'm moving into an apartment that doesn't allow pets, don't move into that apartment. These are living, breathing creatures that man has domesticated and it is our responsibility to take care of them. I've moved several times and I am now divorced and I have moved with over 16 animals, which have included dogs, cats, horses and even pot-bellied pigs. Sure it meant I might have to move a bit further out of town and commute, but I did that until I saved up enough money to buy a small home of my own. So I'm not listening to any of your excuses... (Sharing Jackie T.'s message)

Yogesh Khandke
Yogesh Khandke1 years ago

Would a family give/ or sell their child, fellows who do so to pets are IMO selling their children. Shame!

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth1 years ago

Good article. Owners who have to rehome animals need to take more care

Mary Beth M.
MaryBeth M.1 years ago

While true that Craigslist did not create the monster who horrifically and evilly tortured this poor animal for months before he became bored with his sadism; nor did Craigslist create the societal conditions that necessitated the original owner of Puppy Doe to have to 'rehome' her dog (her new landlord wouldn't allow a pitbull); nor did they cause the original owner to show such poor judgment in who she chose to give her dog to...the dog was dependent on her, trusted her to care for it and make the right decisions. Craigslist is but ONE of many avenues of obtaining animals either for free or little charge for nefarious purposes. The animals have no choice. God forbid, but if I were ever faced with dire circumstances and unable to keep or find loving homes for my current 5 dogs/cats, I would humanely euthanize them. A gentle death in the arms of a loving owner has got to be better than abandonment, heartbreak, being passed from home to home, life on the streets or in a cage or the worst case scenario, becoming the victims of a sadistic monster. I pray I am never in that position. Death is not the worst case scenario. Ask Puppy Doe.