Misguided War on Craigslist is Costing Lives

Most of the animal welfare community believes listing animals on Craigslist is a terrible thing. Craigslist allows people to rehome pets for a small fee to encourage pet adoption, but not promote pet profiteering by breeders. Every day, people post pictures on Facebook saying Craigslist animals automatically go to dog fighters, laboratories and dog flippers. In fact, numerous petitions to remove Craigslist’s pet section entirely have popped up in the interest of animals.

No Solid Evidence to Suggest Craigslist is More Dangerous Than Other Pet Placement Venues

The evidence showing Craigslist is far more dangerous to place pets is nonexistent. The well-publicized Puppy Doe incident where a man abused a pit bull puppy obtained from Craigslist is one example of abuse. Craigslist is the nation’s 10th most popular web site and attracts 50 million different visitors each month in the United States alone. In other words, 1 out of 6 Americans use Craigslist each month. Therefore, it is entirely logical with so many visitors and pet placements that a few would go wrong.

People abuse animals obtained from other sources as well. Do people think no one abused an animal adopted from an animal shelter or rescue? Yes, it does happen at animal shelters who “do criminal background checks” as well like this example here. Unfortunately, animals placed for adoption always have a small risk of falling into unsavory hands. Few people would take PETA’s view that killing homeless animals is preferable to adoption due to the tiny risk things may go wrong. Unfortunately, the Craigslist haters fall right into this misguided view that the public at large cannot be trusted. Should we no longer do off-site adoption events since unscrupulous people may visit? Maybe, we shouldn’t put shelters in high traffic locations or keep them open at convenient hours to prevent bad people from adopting animals?

Craigslist also literally saved one bait dog’s life. Mama Jade was a victim of untold abuse, including apparent dog fighting, having her teeth removed, over-breeding, and various other injuries. However, the breast cancer she had was too expensive for her rescuer to afford. As a result, euthanasia seemed like the likely outcome. After posting a plea for help on Craigslist, all the necessary funds came in and then some (which went to a local rescue). Mama Jade finally got the life she long deserved. Unfortunately, these types of Craigslist stories rarely make the rounds on various animal welfare groups Facebook pages.

Banning Craigslist Pet Placements Will Lead to More Shelter Killing

Removing Craigslist’s pet section will undoubtedly lead to more shelter killing. Many people who will not be able to place their pets will be forced to surrender animals to kill shelters. These impounded animals will either be killed or cause another dog or cat to die by taking its space.

Eliminating Craigslist’s pet section will reduce adoptions by shelters and rescues resulting in more animals killed in shelters. Many shelters and rescues rely on Craigslist to place their animals quickly into loving homes. If rescues cannot place their animals quickly, fewer animals will get pulled and saved from kill shelters. Similarly, kill shelters who cannot place their dogs as swiftly will kill more animals due to lack of space.

Craigslist also is an important avenue for long-term lifesaving. Craigslist is immensely popular with young adults. If we can convince young adults to adopt now, we may very likely gain adopters for decades to come. Rough 60% of people online aged 25-44 years old use online classified ads, which Craigslist is the most popular. Facts like these lead those focused on saving lives, such as Bert Troughton of the ASPCA, no kill advocate Kathe Pobloski, and Austin Pets Alive to support using Craigslist to place animals. Thus, it is imperative we use every tool we can to save lives today and well into the future.

In fact, my wife and I placed several dogs we fostered in great homes using Craigslist.  All these dogs were pit bulls, which languished in the shelter for months, and were adopted within a few weeks using Craigslist. One adopter was a young man who went on to volunteer with us at the shelter. His girlfriend ended up becoming a dedicated worker at a no kill shelter. Another adopter was a young golf instructor who regularly shares pictures of the dog and even lets us pet sit our former foster. Thus, our personal experience corroborates the effectiveness of Craigslist to save lives and find wonderful homes.

Unfortunately, the war on Craigslist already is resulting in shelter animals losing their lives. Several rescues are “saving” animals being rehomed on Craigslist. At the same time, New Jersey shelters are killing 73 animals each day. Therefore, these rescues are choosing to “save” animals who will likely be fine and ignoring the animals who have a 100% chance of death. Additionally, many other animals who would have been safely rehomed on Craigslist may end up surrendered to high kill shelters after their owners were told not to use Craigslist. As a result of their war on Craigslist, self-proclaimed animal welfare advocates are reducing the amount of lives saved.

Wrong Assault on People Rehoming Their Pets

While certain rescue groups and individuals sharply criticize owners rehoming their pets, leaders in the animal welfare and no kill movement think otherwise. One argument made by these folks is owners are basically too stupid to rehome a pet on their own. The California Sheltering Report, which was written by the Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA and other groups, disagrees and says owners are in fact better at placing their dogs:

“Owners may also be in a better position than a crowded shelter to rehome their pet, as they know their pet’s positive qualities and can exhibit the pet in a comfortable habitat.”

Similarly, Austin Pets Alive, which led Austin, Texas to becoming the largest no kill community in the country, strongly advocates people rehome their pets using Craigslist. Logically, keeping pets out of shelters saves lives and improves quality of care for animals in shelters.

The criticisms from these individuals show a clear lack of empathy. On the adoption site I run for a local shelter, people frequently contact me looking to rehome their dogs (typically pit bulls). Most times people must relinquish their dogs for very good reasons, such as landlord issues, personal health problems, or even the owner’s death or going to prison. Virtually all rescue groups do not even respond to their pleas for help or simply say “no we will not help you.” If these people turn the dogs over to a kill shelter, which are typically the only ones willing to take the dogs, animal welfare people sharply criticize the “heartless” owners. Yet, when distressed owners try to rehome the animals on Craigslist these same owners are castigated as well. For example, these judgmental people often send nasty messages to distressed owners on Craigslist telling them not to rehome their animal that way. Unfortunately, this not only fails to solve the problem, but turns people off from supporting animal welfare organizations.

The Better Way

So, am I advocating people place animals for free on Craigslist with no questions asked? No, I am not. However, I also believe most people will have the common sense and knowledge of their pet to make informed decisions. That being said, I believe the following things would result in more safe placements and lives saved:

1) Local rescue groups and shelters should collaborate to provide a hotline to distressed pet owners. People answering the hotline should have ample resources, such as solutions to common behavioral issues, lists of dog (particularly pit bull) friendly rental properties, and dog trainers who agree to provide discounted or free training. Many times problems causing a person to relinquish a pet can be solved. Therefore, the animal welfare community can prevent the need to rehome pets altogether in many instances.

2) People insisting on contacting individual placing animals for adoption on Craigslist need to follow proper etiquette. First, they should come across as nonjudgmental, offer to help, and provide the following or similar rehoming guidance:


3) For those wanting to crackdown on Craigslist posts, flag all posts where someone appears to sell animals for a profit. Craigslist only allows classified ads for animals needing homes for “a small rehoming fee” in order to help homeless animals. Cracking down on ads from breeders will decrease their ability to sell animals.

Let’s focus on saving lives and leave moralizing to others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s