Craigslist Killer: Puppy Edition

craigslist puppy, BoingyDog.com

When it comes to dogs, I’ve always known adoption was for me. When I got my cat as a teenager, I adopted him from the SPCA. I got a crash course in how animals end up in shelters and why shelter life can be so difficult for them, and decided then that I would always be part of the solution.

When it came time to look for a dog I was nervous to just walk into a shelter and I knew nothing about PetFinder so I hopped on Craigslist. I was young and almost always broke and had furnished several apartments by finding free or cheap furniture there. I’d always seen the category for pets on Craigslist but never selected it. This time I did.

I went through every possible emotion going through posts. I was scared for the dogs that people were desperately trying to get rid of for free. I was elated looking at the pictures of a new litter of puppies. I was angered by the threats of those who would abandon their dogs if not picked up by a stranger by a certain date and time. I was relieved that rescue organizations were using Craigslist to post information about dogs available in shelters that might not otherwise have a way to bring attention to those dogs.

It was through the post of a rescue organization on Craigslist that I found my first dog, who I rescued from a shelter. Looking back on what I didn’t know back in 2006, I’m surprised that I avoided a lot of wrong roads. I was so dead set on adopting from a shelter that I’m certain I avoided some disasters. By the time I was ready to adopt Kayo in 2010, I understood that Craigslist wasn’t the way to go and first tried PetFinder, then stumbled upon a pet boutique that doubled as a rescue organization.

While there’s still a lot to learn, seven years after I found a dog on Craigslist, I’m very clear on why I’ll never go back to look for dogs. Here are my reasons, using actual Craigslist posts I found at the time of writing this (original post misspellings included):

1. Coker Spaniel Needs A Home ASAP!!!

This single puppy is being offered at less than four weeks old and the owner writes “I am getting rid of her because…” Where did this single puppy come from and why isn’t it with its mother at this crucial developmental period? Unfortunately, people use the pets section of Craigslist to sell puppies with difficult histories – like being separated from its mother and litter from too early – purely with the aim of making money.

2. Pomapoo Puppy

Adorable puppy that someone is getting rid of because her mother doesn’t like the dog on the new carpets. This dog is small and there’s no mention of a rehoming fee, making this dog an easy candidate as a bait dog in dog fighting rings. Small dogs or runts of the litter who don’t stand a chance against a big fighting dog are often used to entice a fighting dog and build its appetite for killing. Craigslist then becomes a breeding ground for criminal activity around dogs.

3. Free German Shepherd 8 months old Female

The entire text of this post reads: “Free to good home. Need her gone asap. Ears don’t stick up. Not trained. Not fixed.” The frustration in the tone of the post leads me to worry about this dog’s future, especially because they might withhold information about the dog’s health or behavior just to get her to another family. And it’s unlikely that the owner will be picky in deciding what a “good home” is.

4. Beautiful Pugs Pups

This post for purebred pugs has breeder written all over it, especially because they don’t list where they’re located, will deliver the dog to you and noted that they provide a “health guarantee.” I’m not sure how they plan to do that but in California they are under no legal requirements should the dogs develop atypical health problems commonly seen with irresponsible breeding. It’s also not usual for an owner whose dog accidentally got pregnant to offer a “health guarantee.” I see that as breeder language.

5. Puppies

Here’s the text of this post: “Blue nose razor edge pit bulls looking for a home I have two left going for real low.” I already feel bad for these puppies and their littermates. I can only imagine where they will end up and the intentions of the people that will be attracted to this offer.

I got depressed just looking for the Craigslist posts to write this. Some of these dogs might end up in good homes but many will not. Many of these dogs are easy targets and the lack of any vetting of potential adopters could result in these dogs ending up in the wrong hands, only to be subjected to the most horrendous forms of abuse. Craigslist is also an easy place for “dog flipping,” where criminals steal dogs and then try to sell them.

I don’t like highlighting problems without providing any ideas for solutions so here’s mine: take the power away from people who want to use Craigslist this way. It’s not likely that Craigslist will take away this category but we can remove its power by educating people on why this isn’t a route they should take to find a dog. Whenever friends tell me they’re interested in getting a dog, I let them know I will help them find a great dog for their family and first and foremost warn them about puppy mills and how tricky they and others can be on Craigslist.

If you’re so inclined, you can also actively share your concerns with the folks at Craigslist or post your concerns on the forum. You can also red flag posts but have to do so appropriately for the categories Craigslist provides. To me, educating people is the most valuable way to make change so I’ll definitely continue to make efforts to do so.

This is a blog hop sponsored by Keep the Tail Wagging. Please check out other participating blogs in the hop for great information and ideas.

Wag out loud!

At BoingyDog, we are passionate about inspiring ever-improving relationships between dogs and people around the world every day. Our blog is dedicated to dog training and balance, dog health and fitness, exploring ways dogs enhance human life, and using technology to help improve relationships between dogs and people.

  • SlimDoggy

    Great post Mahogany – I too had the same emotions looking at the ad recently. IT is pretty horrifying. We have to hit them in the pocketbook – that’s the only place it will mean something.

    • http://boingydog.com/ BoingyDog

      Agreed! I’m looking into other ways we can make a difference too!

  • http://www.keepthetailwagging.com/welcome Kimberly Morris Gauthier

    Amazing post, M – thanks so much. I spend 10 minutes a day flagging the Free to Good Home ads. I have friends who flag other ads.

    Another great thing to do is forward ads to breed specific rescue groups. This comes to mind, because we see a lot of GSD and bully breeds on the CL in our city so we forward those to the rescue groups specializing in those breeds.

    I think many people just don’t realize how dangerous it is to rehome through CL and CL doesn’t do a good job (IMO) sharing the dangers. So having reputable rescues reach out to the individuals to rehome their dogs is great. What’s sad are the ones who won’t work through rescue because they want the money.

    • http://boingydog.com/ BoingyDog

      Thanks Kimberly! I love that you make it a point to flag certain posts daily. Forwarding to rescue groups is also a really amazing idea and I’m going to start doing that. I’m trying to work more closely with several local rescues and I’m getting to know the breed-specific groups. It is sad when people care more about money than the well-being of an animal, choosing money for a bad home versus feeling better knowing that the animal has a chance at a good life. I’m glad you put on this hop and hope we can keep it going in some way.

      • Stentor7

        I read through your post with a sad heart, but I want you to keep up the good fight & I will too. It took a long time for CraigsList to get rid of their prostitution page, we just have to keep pressure applied to them so they either eliminate that category entirely, or outsource it to a real organization with networks of local offices that cares about pets, like the ASPCA or one with an international presence like Care2.com.

        • http://boingydog.com/ BoingyDog

          Thank you and I apologize for the delay in responding. You’re so right – keeping the pressure applied is the way to go. With all the caring people trying to raise awareness, I know we’ll make a change.