People sell or give away their pets for a variety of reasons. The most common reason include:
- The family is moving and can't take the pet with them
- A couple just had a new baby and the pet is no longer a priority
- The pet is "untrainable"
- The pet was the child's responsibility and he/she is not taking care of the pet
- Someone in the family is allergic to the pet
- The pet parent passed away
Craigslist and social media sites have made selling and giving away pets much easier. It has also created a hunting ground for people with nefarious reasons for wanting to "adopt" a pet. One of those nefarious folks is called a "flipper". They pose as a person very interested in adopting a free pet and appear to be a good home. Once they have the animal in hand, they quickly "flip" the animal, selling them for cash to the highest bidder. They don't care if the animal is going to a good home, all they see is the cash.
Flippers don't confine themselves to pets. Free horses are frequently sold to slaughter for good money.
Another hunter of free animals, particularly kittens and small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, etc are snake owners. All of those pets listed make a free warm meal for larger snakes. Sometimes the snake owners will be "kind" enough to adopt all of your litter. You may think "Why not? Its less I have to worry about." How would you feel if you saw this on Facebook?
Its shocking, but important to see.
Free small (and sometimes larger) dogs are often used as bait dogs to train fighting dogs. Dog baiting usually involves tying a dog to a fence or pole and releasing the fighting dogs to tear the bait dog to shreds. In some areas this is a sport, although it is illegal. Some are even bold enough to post it on Youtube.
Free pets are even adopted by people with the sole intention of abusing the animal. In a recent case, a man bought kittens off of Craigslist in Alabama to later stomp them to death in his kill room.
While Craigslist claims that pets cannot be sold on their website, they do allow pets to be adopted with a "rehoming fee". To many that's just another word for "sold". There is no regulation of the amount of the rehoming fee. In an interview with ABC 7 News, the U.S Department of Agriculture claimed it has been "cracking down on online pet sales over the past couple of months". They also said that they are" requiring online breeders to have a federal license" but told ABC 17 News that "they can't regulate Craigslist pet sales."
Craigslist and Facebook sale pages have become the most common way for backyard breeders and puppy mills to not only sell their animals, but take those free pets who are not spayed or neutered, and use them for breeding. This doesn't mean that they live in loving homes and only are bred as "nature intended". These animals can be locked in cages, sleeping on their own feces, and taken out only to breed and give birth. Although the seller may claim that the puppies have been dewormed and vaccinated, often they are not and once you get the puppy home, he or she may soon die of common preventable diseases such as parvo. Unscrupulous breeders may also remove and sell the puppy before he or she should be weaned, so that they new pet parent will think they are getting a miniature toy puppy.
This also happens with pig breeders. Very few pigs sold as pot bellied pigs are actually pop bellied pigs. Instead they may be hog piglets that have been taken from their mother early. In a few months, you will be left with a 200+ lb hog that ready to root (dig with the nose). He or she will dig up your carpet, dig up your garden, and generally make a mess of things. Unaltered pigs, particularly males become increasingly aggressive. When this happens, what will you do? The breeder certainly will not take the pig back.
Locally, I often see ads saying "must get rid of today", "first come, first served", "will be taken to the shelter if not adopted today." These words are nothing but bait for these exploitative hunters. They are indeed the hunter, and your pet is the prey.
For me, perhaps the most shocking pet hunters and flippers are for-profit "rescues". Non-profit rescues have all their animals spayed or neutered, dewormed, and vaccinated. They also have the proof that it was done. They carefully screen potential adopters, do home visits, and have a contract stating that the pet must be returned to the rescue if he or she is unable to remain with the adopters.
For-profit "rescues" are just an unethical pet store by another name and they will sell the pet as soon as possible and for as much money as they can get. Again, they have no concern where your pet will go.
It costs money and time to become a non-profit, so becoming a 501c3 non-profit rescue or sanctuary is something flippers are usually unwilling to do. Non-profits must report that money coming into the rescue is used for the upkeep of the animals, vet visits, supplies, food, litter, etc. For-profit "rescues" can pocket the money and run.
If you really want to find a good home for your pet, the following are guidelines are a good start:
- NEVER adopt on a first come, first served basis or say you "must get rid of today." Prepare in advance. Its the least you can do for your pet.
- NEVER offer the pet for free. Ask a rehoming fee of at least $25 for dogs or cats.
- NEVER guilt someone into adopting by saying the animal will go to the shelter tomorrow unless he or she finds a home. These placements rarely work out.
- Have the potential adopter fill out an application before they come meet the animal that also serves as a contract that the animal will not be sold for profit, baiting, or experimentation. Include questions on the application such as will the pet be kept indoors or outdoors? Do the potential adopters have a fenced in yard or will the pet be kept on a chain or in a kennel? Are there any other pets in the house. How long has the other pet lived with the family? Are there any children in the family?
- Get vital information including name, address, phone and drivers license number. Refusing to give this information can be one indication that the adopter may not have the best of intentions.
- Ask for references. Vet references are preferred. Inquiring on the care of other pets in the home can help the pet parent decide if the potential home is a responsible one. Ask if the pets are up-to-date on vaccines and if he or she is neutered or spayed.
- Check with the landlord to see if the potential adopter is allowed pets
- Insist on a home visit. When there, observe how the other pets are treated. How do the children and other family members interact with your pet. Also note if the application was filled out truthfully.
- Give an honest impression of your pet or your pet may find its way to the animal shelter before long. If you pet is not potty trained for instance, tell the potential pet parents. Never adopt a pet that does not get along well with other pets or children with homes that have one or both.
- Offer the rehoming fee back once the pet is spayed or neutered. Sometimes, those looking to breed will be unwilling to spay or neuter.
Some areas are forming groups that weed out and report the names of flippers, backyard breeders, those convicted of animal cruelty, and for-profit "rescues". They monitor Craigslist and Facebook for sale pages noting who are frequently adopting and reselling animals that are free to good homes.
Locally, you will find the group Animal Lovers Against Back Yard Breeders of East Tennessee on Facebook. Their purpose is "for East Tennessee animal shelters and rescues to help keep their DNA (Do Not Adopt) lists current. We will expose known dog flippers, backyard breeders, & those known for cruelty & neglect." Consider starting a similar group in your area.
For more information on pet adoption, pet health, and important animal related information, see
Secrets of a Vet Tech II: A Low Cost Pet Care Guide for Pet Parents, Animal Shelters, Rescues, & Homesteaders on Amazon.