Thursday, July 12, 2012

Craigslist Animals: Free to a Bad Home?

I've been browsing humane societies and Craigslist a lot recently because I've been once again struck by the urge to get a dog (I'm currently leaning towards an Alaskan Malamute from S.C.A.M.P). We'll see.

Anyway, the sheer amount of crazy chatter and vitriol over the listing of animals, from horses to gerbils, is amazing. Particularly on the Madison boards, there's a spectrum of people that looks like this, from one extreme to another:

I'll buy, sell, "adopt"/buy-and-resell, breed, eat or kill whatever I damn well please.
For sale: puggles, shiz-poos, Appaloosarabastangs, feral cats and other pets!  None vaccinated, some fixed!
I want to make my money back from this dog that I just don't want any more.
There's nothing wrong with breeding and selling good puppies/foals for purebred lovers.
Life just shat on me, sadly have to re-home my dog/horse. Re-homing fee applies to ensure good home.
Must give up my beloved angel. Please send resume, vet references, blood sample, credit statement.
Never ever put your pets on Craigslist, you're totally irresponsible!
Never sell/re-home an animal PERIOD because that's totally irresponsible!*
Animals should live wild and free, not enslaved by humans. Free the furry slaves!

Normal people fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, and make up the majority of posters-- but people from both extreme ends attack the "normal" people as well as each other. The war between factions recently heated up due to this sad and terrible incident. Those bastards should be turned lose for target practice themselves.

The resulting debate has centered on whether or not it's okay to post an animal as "free to good home."

Opponents say that a free animal is much more likely to be adopted by a random jerk that hasn't decided to make a commitment so much as said, "Hey, neat, a free whatchamacallit, let's get it!" Free animals from Craigslist have been hoarded and neglected, tortured to death by sadists, used as bait dogs in dog fighting, sent to slaughter or "flipped" (aka re-sold). A "re-homing fee" might make someone stop and think about getting the animal, take the time to really decide if it's worth X amount. Finally, if someone has a decent amount of money to spend on a Craigslist pet, that's sort of a guarantee that they'll have the money to take care of it, right?

Wrong, say free-pet proponents. Many, many assholes will spend $300 on a teacup whatever, or thousands on a spotted gypsy whatever, and then not feed it for four days. Charging money is not a substitute for good background checking and vet references. Furthermore, charging $50 for old Champ might actually be preventing him from being adopted by a perfectly good owner who just isn't willing to shell out that kind of cash for a mixed-breed average animal. Isn't the point to find Champ a better home ASAP, not to get paid? Finally, "re-homing fees" have opened the door to breeders (sales by breeders are not normally allowed on Craigslist) and entitled whiners. Some people expect to be compensated for every dollar they've put into their animal, pricing cast-off "adoption animals" at breeders' prices.

I'm on the fence about this. On one hand, I would never list an animal for free, because I do believe that "free" attracts riff-raff. On the other hand, I also understand someone not wanting to pay to basically accept a charity case.

When I listed Nash the neglected llama, I listed him for $100 to scare away idiots, then gave him away for free to his wonderful new home once I was sure it was a nice place. That $100 price tag was simply a little bit of extra insurance. On the other hand, my family "adopted" Mr. Strut because he was listed as free on Craigslist. We did so because "free on Craigslist" was easier and cheaper than spending $400 and umpteen hours filling out a rescue's adoption paperwork and getting a site visit, etc etc. Had he been listed for even as much as $200, we probably would have passed him by. We may or may not have gone to a rescue later.

Animal rescues themselves seem to be on the fence about this. Adoption fees help keep a rescue going. Even $200 for a dog barely covers the cost of spay/neuter, vaccinations and other basic costs. And like I said, that fee is a little extra insurance, to make sure no one takes an adoption lightly. However, the main point of a rescue is to re-home animals. Saint Francis Horse Rescue and Retirement has waived all adoption fees on their horses, and have gotten an excellent response from good owners, giving them more room to take in more critters in need. Many small animal rescues have done the same with cats.

At the end of the day, I simply wish there were far fewer private animal owners trying to get rid of their pets because of poor planning or loss of interest.

So what's best, folks? You tell me.

  * Footnote: I sold a horse on Craigslist once, and had my ad repeatedly flagged (taken down) by a group of people that believes it's wrong to re-sell an animal, regardless of the circumstances. I was finally able to track down one member of this group, who told me that I was responsible for any animal I took on, for life. Since I was not attempting to make a profit (and eventually took a significant loss) and really was selling because the horse and I just didn't click, this frustrated me extremely.


  1. That's a lot to think about.... I'm afraid to do business on Craigslist at all; I'm afraid of meeting up with a nut.

    I have 3 dogs and each came to me differently:

    One was found tied to a fire hydrant by my workplace with his collar grown into his neck

    One I adopted from our local pet shelter

    One I got free from an elderly lady that couldn't keep him anymore due to doctor's orders

    I'd like to foster dogs or cats to help out local rescues, but I think I'd be weak and want to keep the animal..... I have enough animals to keep responsibly now.

    1. Hey KD, I think Craigslist in general is pretty safe. I've met several friends via the personals section, one of whom is now my best friend-- I just threw her a baby shower. I've bought and sold a ton of stuff there and never had a problem. There ARE nuts out there-- but probably no more than you'd meet at your average horse sale :)