Whole Dog Journal's Blog August 30, 2018

Puppies Don't Belong on Craigslist or Facebook

Posted at 10:16AM - Comments: (18)

In the September issue of Whole Dog Journal, author/trainer/training editor Pat Miller describes how she obtained the latest canine addition to her family – via a posting on Craigslist. She wrote:

“Look – I have warned people about the very real and significant dangers of trying to sell or adopt pets through Craigslist. Scammers get dogs for free or cheap from unsuspecting owners, and then charge exorbitant fees to adopt them to others as “rescues.” Or worse, hoard or abuse them.

“But I would be at the other end of the equation. I would be a responsible human trying to adopt a dog for our legitimate home, perhaps even saving a dog from one of those awful fates.”

dogs on craigslist

I recently advised another friend to look on Craigslist, too. My friend Mike is looking for a young dog (not a puppy), who is between 30 and 40 pounds (he and his partner live in a tiny house, but have always had bigger dogs and don’t want a small one), and who has a very short coat (they live in the Sierra foothills, where there are lots of stickers and ticks). He and his partner have been scouring shelters and rescue groups for months without finding just the right dog. I am proud of their patience, because they take being responsible owners very seriously; their new dog, when they find him or her, will be very well cared for. But they also are retired, and they don’t want what could conceivably be the last part of their lives burdened with a dog who is unsuited for them. The perfect dog for them has not popped up in a shelter just yet, so I suggested that they also look at Craigslist posts for dogs who need new homes – and I went looking there, too.

Be forewarned, though: Looking at the “pets” section of any city’s or area’s Craigslist page can be upsetting, not least because of the sheer number of people who are looking to rehome their dogs for any of a host of reasons. At least they are trying to find a new home for their dogs, and some people, apparently, do find great new homes for their companions – look at Pat Miller!

However, in order read the listings for individual dogs in need of homes, you have to wade through dozens of ads from backyard breeders. The more time I spend on Craigslist, the more angry and aggravated I get.

dogs on craigslist

Craigslist listing for *puppies*

Why so mad? Well, according to Craigslist’s terms of service, “the sale of pets is prohibited, though re-homing with small adoption fees is acceptable.” We’ve seen “small adoption fee” described as the approximate amount of money that the lister has spent very recently on the animal’s care, but the fact is, there is no formal limit as to what comprises a “small adoption fee” – and so, perhaps due to the lack of either definitions or enforcement, listings for dogs and puppies (and every other type of companion animal) are present by the dozen on any local Craigslist you may see. Literally ALL of the ads for puppies tout the “small rehoming fee” they want for the pups that, in most cases, have been bred deliberately in order to make money.

dogs on craigslist

Craigslist doesn't allow a lot of things, including "pet sales".

I am in no way against responsible breeding, conducted by knowledgeable people with suitable dogs, with care taken to raise, socialize, and provide medical care for the puppies. But that is just NOT what you see on Craigslist. Instead, you find hundreds of mixed-breed and unregistered but purportedly “purebred” pups, photographed in dirty environments (with the blank gazes of unhandled neonates), being made available to anyone with the money for the “rehoming fee.” What is clear to me is that many of the dogs purchased in this way (or who have gone too long unpurchased) will end up in my local shelter and shelters everywhere.

Overrepresented in particular on Craigslist are puppies for sale from pitbull-type dogs of every description. The ads try to make them sound exotic and special – so-called red-noses and blue-noses and dogs of bizarre dimensions, large and small. The fact is, far more of these “bully breeds” are being bred than anyone can find homes for, and these sorts of dogs are also represented out of all proportion in probably every shelter in this country – and every freezer full of euthanized dogs at the shelters that still take on this unthinkable task. When I look at the ads for these puppies, I am just filled with sadness and rage.

What can a person do? Craigslist’s recommended solution is “flagging” ads that violate its standards. There is a small chevron-shaped box with a grey “X” in it that users can click to make an ad that violates the Craigslist prohibition on selling puppies (or stud service) disappear, at least temporarily. I know people who make it a habit to check Craigslist in their area daily, flagging all the ads for puppies they find. It’s a start, but it sure seems like a task that could easily be automated, Craig Newmark.

And today, frankly, there is a larger platform that needs just as much reform. In the past few years, user groups dedicated to selling certain types of dogs and puppies or selling puppies in certain areas mushroomed in size and number – despite Facebook’s supposed prohibition on selling animals or animal services on Facebook.

dogs on facebook

More bully breeds for sale on Facebook.

For years, Facebook didn’t seem to take any action against obvious violators of its prohibition on animal sales, but reportedly in 2016, when it launched its Marketplace feature (where anyone could list many things, though supposedly not animals, for sale), Facebook began using algorithms meant to detect and delete ads for live animals.

facebook selling rules

Facebook's rules for what you can sell.

Facebook also added a mechanism for users to report ads for puppies and other animals for sale – but users take evasive actions, such as listing their puppies for sale on “discussion” boards, rather than on the page for “items for sale.” The task of flagging these ads is just like it is at Craigslist: a bit like playing “whack-a-mole.”

You may ask: Is there a place or way for responsible breeders to advertise their puppies? Of course there is, and I’ll talk about that more in next week’s blog post. But, in my opinion, neither Facebook groups nor Craigslist ads should be considered a source for puppies.

dogs on facebook

Pitbull puppies for sale on Facebook

What do you think? Have you had an experience, good or bad, with buying or selling puppies in one of these forums?

Comments (18)

I think maybe I wasn't clear? I think social media can be a great way for owners to try to do a home-to-home "rehome," and for shelters and legitimate rescue groups to "advertise" their genuinely rescued dogs. But I don't think puppies should EVER be sold via social media, given this medium's value to the worst kind of backyard, ignorant breeders.

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | September 3, 2018 2:35 PM    Report this comment

Although for the most part I agree with the comments made here, sometimes actual buyers are surfing these sites for purebred dogs like ours. Anytime we even mention AKC our ads get bumped, flagged, criticized or outright called a puppy mill. We are not a backyard breeder but not every breeder starts with the best equipment, super website, top of the line dogs to breed, and perfect puppies sold after 10 weeks, yes, I said 10 weeks. We keep our pups bred with parents until then to learn more. We have only bred 3 or 4 times lately, and criticized every step we took with prior knowledge of 35 years of breeding experience. Sad every one knows its a puppy mill or back yard breeder but can't blame the shelter or rescue for promoting their bad actions :-( Not all dogs have the temperament to be saved, some are damaged beyond fixing and living in a cage in a shelter the rest of their life is cruel punishment. Think folks, we have common sense and compassion to know what needs to be done.
Not every small breeder is a "backyard breeder" they must just be small on purpose. Small breeders can and do grow into larger breeders that are now well recognized.
Think not all can be saved.....

Posted by: paws55 | September 1, 2018 10:05 AM    Report this comment

I fail to see the value of any of these social apps because, if anything, they are anti-social. Very little good happens on Facebook which exists solely for the enrichment of Mark Zuckerberg no matter who he harms along the way. Facebook is responsible for the perversion of our democratic elections, being paid off by hostile foreign governments. It’s not enough to hear Zuckerberg apologize to Congress and promise to do better. They can’t undo the harm caused to the country by foreign meddling in 2016. Craigslist started a little bit more altruistic but once the public is left unmonitored, it became clear Craigslist is no more responsible than Facebook. It’s all about money and none of them cares a bit about our country. Whether selling puppies or prostitution, Craigslist is there for you. It seems the puppy situation brings out the worst of the worst players. We need the one thing the abusers and Republicans think is terrible and that is regulation of these abuses. A free market is great but at times needs oversight and regulation. To think otherwise is foolish.

Posted by: Stephen777 | August 31, 2018 9:04 AM    Report this comment

This is a sad, sad, article. Most people buy a dog based on its looks. Even the author claims that a she and a "friend" were hopelessly forced to purchase animals from an internet seller.
As long as there are buyers, there will be sellers. That is simple economics 101.
Of course, we could ask everyone to report or flag these and I myself have done so many times.
But it gets really frustrating when you see that reporting an add leads to no real change.
So, if you really want to see change, get your dog from a shelter or from a reputable breeder, not off the internet!

Posted by: Teri | August 31, 2018 2:07 AM    Report this comment

I agree, there are lots of terrible people and many of the ads on CL are breeders. But CL also posts for Breed Rescues (for example German Shepherd rescue in my area has adoption days at local PetSmart, advertised on CL). I was looking for a yellow lab/golden female puppy and I found her on CL. The person was a breeder of pure Goldens and Labs, but this litter was an 'oops' litter-her male Golden mated with her female Yellow Lab. She was wormed and vaccinated and socialized. Lauriel, my integrative vet told me the shelter refused to let her adopt an older large breed dog because they didn't feel her yard was big enough! She adopted a similar dog from somewhere else, it can't get around well because of its age, gets five star care and goes into work with its owner every day. So just because a shelter denied someone, it doesn't necessarily mean that were not loving pet owners

Posted by: chicken lady | August 30, 2018 7:06 PM    Report this comment

I have browsed pet ads on Craigslist, as well as my neighborhood's message board (nextdoor.com), but I have never utilized either for adopting a dog as I have always been able to adopt my favored breed through rescue groups. Although I do know people who have successfully adopted through those venues, I am sure there are tragic situations as well. Regardless, what always annoys me is the self-righteous "asking re-homing fee to ensure that he goes to a good home." First of all, "re-homing" is more often than not a euphemism for "selling." How is selling your dog ensuring a good home? Ensuring a good home is visiting the potential adopter at his/her home (even if that means traveling), and checking references. These dog sellers should just acknowledge that they want money for a family member. If, God forbid, I should ever be in a situation where I have to give up a dog, it would never even occur to me to ask for money.

Posted by: Allison B | August 30, 2018 6:32 PM    Report this comment

There is a Facebook rescue group for the obscure Hungarian breed that I fell in love with 50 years ago. My first dog was a rescue, but all my others had to be purchased from breeders, as no rescues were to be found. In Hungary, some of these wonderful dogs are put out on the road to fend for themselves when their owners die or move. In the US, they are quite rare. The FB group has rescued/re-homed many dogs. They find a nearby group member to check on a new adopter, and they have removed a few puppy mill types from the group. I have donated to medical costs for some of these dogs. If it is a scam, it is a complicated one. We see photos of the dogs after treatment, and after adoption as well. Some people who adopt post yearly birthday photos of their dogs. There are yearly meet-ups in various parts of the country. It costs about the same to have a rescue shipped to the US as to buy one of these dogs from a breeder.

Posted by: susan in sf | August 30, 2018 5:00 PM    Report this comment

Exactly! I can't even read this because I get so angry about it. If you are shopping for pets on Craigslist, you are too stupid to be a pet owner, and probably too stupid to be a parent, but you just can't fix stupid. The problem is that the animals are paying the price, painfully, for the human stupidity. And there are not enough ways to regulate the buying and selling of animals to protect them from stupid. We all need to be active protectors of these innocent animals. Bad things can only happen when good people do nothing. Keep up the good work and keep spreading the word.

Posted by: Pennyannie2 | August 30, 2018 4:14 PM    Report this comment

Normally, I would say don't look for a puppy on Craigslist. However, my family loves a specific breed of dog (Pomeranian) and they are hard to find in our state as far as breeders and rescues/shelters go. So a few years ago we were looking for a dog for our family and turned to Craigslist. I tried to steer clear of the puppy ads because I had heard about puppy scams and more looked for dogs that were genuinely being rehomed for whatever reason. After much searching and waiting, we finally found a dog we were interested in. We contacted and met the family the dog was with and we fell in love with the dog. We "adopted" her and that was 3 years ago. Since then, we have found 2 more dogs through Craigslist, our most recent we just adopted less than a month ago. We adopted the three at ages 1 year, 15 weeks, and 2 years old so only one of them was a puppy. Craigslist can be a good place to find a new pet, but you have to be really careful and really look for genuine listings for people who want to rehome their pets.

As for Facebook, I am a part of a few specific breed groups for Pomeranians and I see some of the puppy ads and have been connected with some great breeders but I am very careful about it. I also volunteer with a dog rescue and we post our available dogs on our page and that is basically our lifeblood to getting the dogs adopted.

There are both good and bad sides to using Craigslist and Facebook but take it with a grain of salt and be very careful and do you research when looking for a puppy on there.

Posted by: JillyM2 | August 30, 2018 3:19 PM    Report this comment

We adopted our little gal from a person who recognized her breed and saved her from Craigslist. She was an impulse purchase from a puppy mill (found all of her info with lots of legwork) and had been passed thru 8 homes by 8 months. She does have some physical issues because of being the product of a puppy mill brother and sister. Had raging ear and eye infections which her rescuer took care of immediately. She'd been living in a crate in a drug house in Philadelphia. True to her breed, she has an impeccable temperament and has been an absolute joy although she does require 3 very expensive meds 3x daily for life if she is to keep the eye.
What people don't realize maybe is that puppies and especially older dogs offered on Craigslist many times end up being pit dog bait - mouths and feet duct taped so they can't fight back then thrown into the pit - sometimes repeatedly if they live. The pit owners pose as loving families (even taking children along with them!) so the owners will release the dog thinking it's getting a good home. Have friends whose badly scarred pit was a bait dog. Naturally he has loads of trust/emotional issues. At best the dog finds a decent home but that is VERY unusual. Generally it will end up chained to a tree on the back 40 and fed whenever somebody remembers, or, as in my girl's case, passed from home to horrible home when the novelty wears off.
Agreed that euthanasia is kindest if for some reason you simply cannot keep the dog and cannot place it with someone you know WELL and plan to stay in touch with. At least it's a peaceful passing and the dog won't spend its lifetime enduring horrible conditions not of its own making. Backyard breeders only care about the money - they couldn't care less about the puppies' welfare. Currently boarding a few fear biters that were from family BYB situations with no socialization. poor dogs will never be mentally right or able to be trusted in social situations. The owners are not willing to put in the time and effort to help the dogs cope. And the beat goes on....

Posted by: sararunfast | August 30, 2018 2:47 PM    Report this comment

Anymore, I just don't like humans at all, for a long list of reasons. This is just one of them.

Posted by: Natalie H. | August 30, 2018 2:27 PM    Report this comment

I find it very frustrating in this day and age that some people still use Craigslist or FB for "rehoming" an animal when in reality it isn't usually a rehoming situation 98% of the time! Even though warnings/bad stories have been told of the consequences of this action it is still widely used. Too many an animal has suffered a terrible fate and we have all read the stories but still these poor animals are subjected to this fate. I also read a story told by dog fighter who was in prison doing time for the terrible offenses he committed against animals and he specifically told of getting animals off Craigslist, he divulged all the secrets of his trade and for him to be locked up for cruelty to animals it was a bad offense as we kn ok w our laws are lacking in that respect! Please people if you truly love animals in general no matter what the circumstances DO NOT use these means for "rehoming" an animal. In some cases they would be better off being humanely euthanized at a shelter(which the thought kills me) than to be put through such a terrible death from the use of these sites and ending up in the wrong hands. Mostly when getting an animal it is a lifelong commitment as the animal is committed to you as well, I would move if it was a choice between my home or my furbaby as an example. PLEASE ADOPT AND DON'T SHOP, there are too many animals dieing every year due to neglegence of ownership and breeders!

Posted by: Robin Trowsse | August 30, 2018 2:08 PM    Report this comment

Here's a reasonable alternative to craigslist, pet stores, or puppy mills for someone who can't wait for a real individual breeder and doesn't want to do the research. This is a kind of concierge service, and they charge, so they will cost more than purchasing a comparable pup, but they guarantee health and a real breeder source, puppy spot (one word), only 10% of the breeder applicants are selected; no puppies are from puppy mills..
My Newf comes from a breeder who is very particular about how she places her puppies, and I would never use a concierge service. I was able to watch the mom raise her previous litter and see the breeder working with the pups. Then I waited for a year for the next litter and a dog with the perfect temperament and strength for a therapy dog. He's wonderful!
However, not everyone is in the same situation. At least these puppy spot pups are healthy and have had some human attention in their early environments. If you pick a breed that's easy to socialize, and you simply want a family dog, all should be fine.They have a large selection and mixed breeds too.

Posted by: suzanne1234 | August 30, 2018 1:57 PM    Report this comment

Several years ago, I signed a petition from Change.org asking Craigslist to stop this. I prefer to adopt from a rescue group that I've thoroughly vetted or from one of my local shelters.

Posted by: DreamWeaver | August 30, 2018 1:31 PM    Report this comment

I’m SO HAPPY to see a story exposing backyard breeders. If I were a journalist, I would go undercover and find out more about this because as a dog rescuer, I hear HORRIFIC stories about animals being obtained through Craig’s list, only to end up in the saddest situation you can imagine (bait dogs, or in the hands of a monster who does horribly unimaginable things to these poor creatures, to people using them as “watch dogs”, where they sit on a 5 foot chain, all day and night, through heat and frigid temps and rain, etc.). Just do a Google search for “Craig’s List” and “Pet/dog/cat” and “torture” and stories will curl the hair on your toes. In the cases around me, I blame the local government. Yes, Los Angeles is a big city, and backyard breeders cannot be controlled easily. But they CAN be controlled better. Get volunteers and train them to check up on the licensed breeders. Because getting a license in this city costs less than $300 a year!! I have gone to meetings and confronted the Animal Services Manager about the price of breeding licenses, and she had all kinds of stupid reasons why they could not raise them. I adopted a dog from our shelter who we believe was a breeding dog. She was SUCH a wreck, physically and emotionally. After 4 years, she has become the sweetest most loving dog ever. But it took time because she was so damaged. The shelter was going to euthanize her, but I could see she was just scared. There are COUNTLESS dogs just like her being tossed out onto the streets every day here in Los Angeles because of backyard breeders. I want to start a movement to stop this. Stop backyard breeders. Stop Craig’s List and Facebook, whatever we can to stop the flow of dogs into a society with not enough homes, and stop these poor creatures from ending up being abused, or worse...tortured. Thank you again for bringing light to this very important subject.

Posted by: Mitzi458 | August 30, 2018 1:25 PM    Report this comment

It is horrible for these dogs. What we need to do is have stricter laws on the sale of pets. It is a shame but as a society we still have the back words thinking that animals are possession, to do with as we wish. We can start by teaching our children to treat animals as they are living being that can feel pain and happiest, as we human can.

Posted by: chickens | August 30, 2018 12:44 PM    Report this comment

This practice absolutely sickens me. do these people not realize that many of use animals will end up with dog fighters, or abusers, or even be sold to labs where their lives will be a continual hell until death relieves them? There was a case a few years ago of a woman moving to an apartment that wouldn't allow her dog so she rehomed her beautiful little pit to man who seemed a good match. Instead, he abused the poor dog so horribly that when it was found where he tossed its broken body in a park, it had to be euthanized. I still cry over this dog.
As a younger person I confiscated a starving dog and brought it to health but my then-husband wouldn't let me keep it as we already had one dog. I've since learned that husbands come and go but our dogs remain loyal friends if we let them. I gave the dog to a young man who did admit the shelter wouldn't let him adopt, for whatever reason. I had misgivings but felt pressured. To this day I often wonder how the dog faired.

Believe it or not, this practice of re-homing also occurs with fostered and adopted children, and same fates often happen to them when they aren't followed up on by welfare agencies.

Don't do it, people. Don't give your pets away to strangers.

Posted by: Lauriel | August 30, 2018 11:50 AM    Report this comment

This is horrible to me. Don't these people realize that many dog fighters and animal abusers look through ads to find free animals? Many of these animals end up being sold to labs where their lives are a continual hell. There was a case awhile ago in which a woman was moving to an apartment that didn't allow her dog, so she rehomed her wonderful little pit to a man who seemed the perfect person, only to have the dog so horribly abused that when it was discovered where he'd tossed its broken body in a park, it had to be euthanized. I still cry when I think of this dog, and to know that people haven't realized the dangers of rehoming yet, is just appalling. What does it take to wake people up?
In my youth I confiscated a starving dog and restored it to health but my then-husband wouldn't let us keep it, as we had another dog, so I gave it to a young man who seemed like a good fit. He admitted that the shelter wouldn't adopt him a dog, for whatever reason, and I had serious misgivings, but felt pressured. To this day I think about this sweet dog who deserved more.
This is also happening with adopted children now, believe it or not. There have been cases of rehomed children given to fosters that were never followed up on and died from abuse, so people, please be aware of the dangers of this
Look at those little puppies above. Do you think they've been well treated? We all know how exuberant puppies are, all wiggly and full of kisses. None of these look happy.

Posted by: Lauriel | August 30, 2018 11:42 AM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In