I missed the boat on the Craigslist Blog Hop led by Keep the Tail Wagging last December, but Kimberly and I have chatted on that subject in two separate conversations, which led me to start poking around and contemplating seriously my stand on the matter. As with most complicated issues, I still don't really know for sure what I would like to happen, but definitely something different than what I am seeing.
I've developed a maddening new hobby of perusing the Community-Pets section, and then if I really want to get upset, I do a search for "Puppies" in the For Sale section. Selling animals outright is against Craigslist rules, but it is left to users to enforce, and it doesn't stop anyone. Puppy sellers know that those shopping in the online back alley will likely see their ads before they get taken down. Some don't even attempt to disguise their prices as "rehoming fees." In a recent search I found puppies for sale for anywhere from $80 to $1500.
Here in Denver we have some of the strictest Breed Specific Legislation in the country, and our surrounding-area shelters are filled with pit bulls and pit bull-types. Sadly, people in this region continue to breed, sell and give away pit bulls. Many of these dogs will not have a chance. The most disturbing ad I've seen recently was a blurry picture of a pit bull litter, advertised in the general 'For Sale' section, "will trade for jewlrey [sic] or handbags." I've seen a male and female pit bull, unaltered and possibly having already created yet another litter, being given away as "must be gone by tonight." I see misspellings and flat out slaughterings of breed names and breeds that don't or shouldn't exist, such as American Bulldog/Pomeranian puppies and "Dioxin (Dachshund) Littermates." I've seen older dogs being cast aside because "we're moving," "we're having a baby" or, most infuriating, "I've switched to breeding something different."
Initially I flagged many of these ads as fast as my fingers would carry me, and posted them on my Facebook page for others to flag. Lately I've started questioning if that is in fact the right thing to do. What becomes of these puppies if the ad is taken down? Are shadier, crueller, more desperate measures taken? Are they put in a box in a parking lot to attract more uneducated owners and whim purchases? For each pet that doesn't get taken by a dog fighter, pet flipper or research supplier is another getting dumped in the woods? Are we simply sweeping the problem under the rug where we don't have to see it? There are multiple online petitions circulating with various proposals: take animals off of Craigslist entirely, disallow "Free to Good Home" ads, make posting available to shelters and rescue groups only. I haven't personally signed any of these petitions because there isn't a single one that addresses all of my concerns; with every exclusion I see a new problem.
I believe that a great deal could be done with the ad-posting interface, simply giving set options for re-homing fees and including warnings about the dangers of giving animals away. I believe Craigslist should take more responsibility for enforcing the "No Pet Sales" rule, and banning users who perpetuate it. As dog lovers, we have our knowledge as a tool for reaching out to those who seem genuinely uninformed or in need. Providing contact information for local breed rescues or urging caution can go a long way toward keeping dogs safe.
I recently contacted a poster who was looking for a home for her 8 year old Border Collie that had belonged to her recently-deceased mother. She sounded genuinely in need, struggling with depression and feeling as if she could no longer care for the dog. I directed her to the local Border Collie rescue and urged her to be careful in screening potential homes. She replied to me, thanked me for my concern and said she had found a foster situation for the dog until she was able to get back on her feet. I hope the story has a happy ending for all involved, but I continue to fear for the fates of so many animals on Craigslist. Below is an ad that I posted in the "Pets" section of my local Craigslist site, and which I will continue to renew in hopes that it reaches even a handful of people that might not know any better.
Responsibly Rehoming Pets (denver area)
If you absolutely must re-home your pet (which is far desirable to dumping them at an overcrowded shelter to an uncertain fate), please consider contacting a local breed rescue for purebreds or known mixes. Please carefully screen any potential adopters including asking for veterinary or other pet professional references and possibly a home visit. If you are re-homing due to behavioral issues, please consider contacting a trainer before giving up.
Up On The Woof has a fantastic article which includes links to some form letters to send out to posters offering pets for free.
Here is one petition that asks Craigslist to only allow registered shelters and rescue groups to post animals for adoption.