Puppies Don’t Belong on Craigslist or Facebook

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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

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

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

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 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

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

55 COMMENTS

  1. You are absolutely right about this one. I have called a person who has puppies and I wanted to get the rehomming fee, it was a very good price so I traveled the 70 miles one way and I got the puppy when I got home the poor baby pup was so sick and it had a broken tail in two places took it to the vet only to be told that I have to put it down because of parvo. I was so sad that this puppy was only 6weeks old and I was out the 60.00$ dollars. I found it on CREIGLIST NEVER AGAIN WILL I BE GETTING A PUPPY ON THAT BUTCHERED WEBSITE.

    • I’m not a breeder I own four German Shepherds two are fixed. I am a responsible owner , they get heart wormer monthly and I take them to the vet. I have and do allow my other two Shepherds, male and female to breed but my females are bred twice and I do sell the puppies on Craigslist. They are vetted before hand and rehomed with a price. I do it yes to offset some of my costs for raising the adults. I have discovered also if you give a puppy away people get tired of it unless they have an investment in it that being the case their is more chance of finding a responsible owner. I do have my females fixed after two litters. I’m not a breeder under definition .

    • Yall need to get a life. Where do you think the puppies go if an owner can’t sell/rehome them? Shelters or dumped. You high and mighty asses. Trying to prevent animal abuse but you one way thinkers don’t understand the outcome of what you’re doing and how you could be endangering more animal lives through your actions. Posts with legit rehoming are getting flagged because of you activists thinking you’re doing the “right thing”. Mind your damn business.

  2. Oh my goodness this article is just what I was looking for. We are in the process of going after and suing one of these horrible Craigslist sellers. Everything you said is true. But my next goal is to put an end to the Craigslist pet section. How can we do this?

    • I had gotten a lab puppy from a breeder it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be but my son was not really good with it so I put it on Craigslist to re-home it it ended up with the awesome home and all I did was get part of the money back that I spent for it I can stay in contact with the people that have my puppy now I get to get pictures of the dog so I feel good about it I do feel bad that when I go on and look for a cat after my cat was disappeared that I could not find a free kitten on Craigslist I think it’s ridiculous the amount that they charge for kittens I went back to the original the cat where I got my kitten from and the lady a she had kittens again I was very happy to find that I think it’s ridiculous that you have to pay an astronomical amount for a kitten kitten should be free or $20 really you know people can go and get their own shots for kittens they shouldn’t have to come with all their shots it kittens people should not be paying astronomical amounts for them same things with dogs and people looking for puppies and their on Craigslist is because he can’t afford to go to a breeder so I have to agree it’s one thing if somebody paid an amount to a breeder to get a dog and then looking to try to recoup what they paid or an amount of it you know and they can prove that they have this amount that they put into the dog and then rehoming it that’s one thing but if they got it from a shelter and I need to re-home at the shelter will take it back so it should be free if it came from a shelter if she returned to the shelter when you get a dog from a breeder and you don’t exactly like the Breather and you want to find a better home for the dog because your son is not good with the dog and you’re trying to do better for the dog I think you should be able to rehome a dog on Craigslist my dog has an awesome home now he’s very happy and I’m very glad that I got to give it the the home Scooby has now.

  3. Our story of adopting a dog through Craigslist is a little different and perhaps dated. In August of 2007 we found our dog Cody on Craigslist, advertised by a young man named Joey who had raised her from a puppy that a friend had found abandoned. In his ad, Joey described Cody, a 1½-year-old 65-pound female Ridgeback/Lab mix, as “The World’s Best Dog,” and said he had to give her up as he was moving to the Bay Area to take over his grandparents’ Italian dessert business. It was all true. We visited Cody in Joey’s apartment, where she jumped into my lap and attacked me with kisses. We thought about it for a day or so, and decided to take her. Joey brought her to our home the next day, and said a tearful goodbye to her. Cody quickly adapted and lived up to Joey’s description of her. She was a super dog, with us for almost 12 years before we lost her to liver cancer a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been looking for another dog to fill our lives as Cody did, a very tall order, and once again we’ve looked at ads on Craigslist. The good ones are few and far between, but there are some that sound promising. So don’t give up completely on Craigslist — just use some common sense.

    • Just got a 5 month old Dachshund off criegslist. Didn’t know people weren’t supposed to use it to sale pets. I had a good experience my dog is healthy and happy. The people who had her were nice and seemed knowledgeable. To bad there are people out there ruining things for others.

  4. I think not all the people on craigslist are there just on their to make a buck and some people are there to try to make sure there dogs or cat or what ever they are selling gets good homes ,their is some people like you all just don’t got a life and like to be in other people business. Don’t get wrong if I would see a animal not just a dog in distress I would probably do something about it but I wouldn’t punish other for one person’s faults, I think it’s just not right

  5. Interesting article but sounds a bit militant and, er, dogmatic. The writer is a good example of the pet ad vigilante, approvingly endorsing the interfering with other people’s private business, flagging right and left, hate-trolling people trying to home their animals. All under the banner of helping the animals by harming the humans. Right there, without knowing what people’s situations are, pet ad vigilantes self-righteously judge and insert themselves into other people’s business. They have no credibility. Maybe get a life and mind their own business?

    • Exactly what I was thinking! People need to mind their own business! Most people I know arent trying to spend 1200 bucks on a puppy, and could care less if the dog has “papers” and are just trying to find a descent puppy for their families/children! And lets get real, a small rehoming fee these days is more than $50! People are smart enough to make their own decisions and these “flaggers” need to go lay down!

      • First I wouldnt have gone to craigslist in the first place if breeders weren’t so greedy and over bering about there dogs ..trust that there are as many bad breeders with web sites as craigslist scammers. I’ve had the most exotic dogs in the world and only 2 out of about 10 have been excellent pets. In total ive spent about 35,000 on pets from breeders with actual sites and 2 of those weren’t even the dogs I was paying for or had the temperament as stated. There are as many bad breeders as crooks on craigslist.Ive trained schutzhund dogs in the past and some of the best dogs came from the strangest places in short know your dogs and the signs of health and craigslist is as good as any..sure theres some scammers there but they only thrive when people purchase blindly cute sells..even the fat kid was once cute and cuddly. That said I purchased recently from craigslist one if the most intelligent pups I’ve ever had , a goldendoodle at 900.00 dollars it wasn’t cheap but not nearly as expensive as breeders were asking.my new pet could have easily fetched 2500.00 from the so called legit breeders and I’ve actually spent that much at least 3 times in my 63 years. At the schuthund training field theres a saying..a good dog is where you find it and I’ve found d that to be absolutely true..that said I’ve flagged some on craigslist in the past some ads actually look like they were written by a scammer..funny thing is I actually took a firearm with me to purchase my doodle just in case but when I met the woman and her husband they were as hesitant as some of you and when she kissed the puppy good bye I knew I had made a good choice…5 months later I still keep in contact and this pup is right up there with some of the greatest dogs I’ve ever had..was I lucky sure I was but I know dogs and you should to before making a stupid purchase..dont blame CL for a stupid decision. I do have to agree that theres more garbage there than great fi ds but you need to do your homework to make sure your not another notch in a scammers belt…trust me theres lot of scamming legit breeder..dont be naive.

    • Totally agree. There are many responsible hobby Breeders that advertise on craigslist and Facebook. Hobby Breeders do it for the love of the breed. There is nothing wrong with a hobby Breeder getting compensated for their time and materials to produce healthy, socialized puppies that are good representations of the breed. The writer of this article is obviously ignorant of the the time and expense required to produce healthy socialized puppies. She has now idea that it is a 24/7 job to properly welp healthy puppies, keeping a clean germ free environment, best food, vet exams, proper housing with heat and ac all costs money and time

  6. I’ve bought my last three dogs on craigslist spent any where from 50 to 175 dollars. Which is much more reasonable then going to one of these “reputable” websites your looking at spending 500 dollars or more for a mix breed. Which is silly. I’ve had nothing but good experiences from what I’ve purchased on craigslist. Now once I drove 2 hours to get a dog and the place was so filthy I didn’t even bother to stop. That is how you can be a responsible buyer. Just like all these people and pet stores that purchase from puppy mills. I think that is more cruel then buying one from craigslist. If you want to flame someone, try a company like Petland who sells nothing but puppy mill puppies for thousands of dollars.

  7. I was reading to see if anyone had puppies who needed a good home, for small dogs I have raised 6 adopted dogs and 4 cats in last 20 years. All but one, of those babies lived well Into their teens. Everyone of those animals just needed, someone to love them, along with
    I’m glad I have better things to do, besides worrying about other people, and what they are reading. Maybe next time you will say nice things to other’s.

    • My family and i just bought a pit puppy 3 weeks ago from CL and it was our first time doing so. Not a totally bad experience but it wasn’t the greatest either. We tried the Humane Society and i have to say that experience was much worse. That place smelled so bad, the animals looked so sad, and the manager was an extremely nasty woman with a very bad attitude! Went home the same night got on the computer went to CL and saw the ad called the man and we were on our way an hr and a half later met him. We paid the same amount the Humane Society was charging for their pups. The location was a little sketchy we were nervous but 10 minutes later my husband walked out with our fur baby in his arms and our daughters have been so happy!! He got a bath as soon as we got home and was seen by his vet a week ago to start him on his shots and hes the happiest lil nugget ever…i would do it again if i had to.

  8. I think your crazy…..why talk about this issue you have no idea whst people pay these days and when the puppy does not work out they are not allowed to rehome their puppy for what they gave to get their money back.dogs these days are not cheap……if a person isnt responsible enough not to sell it to someone thats just going to sell it they should not own a fog or puppy in the first place.people need to get a life and worry about them own selves then who or how much they are selling their animals for.you tgrive on being nosey and really only care for you.small fees yeah let all the flippers buy and resell .if an animal is set at a higher fee and someone is willing to pay chances are its not a flipper because no profit can be made and the pet is going to a good home and not abused…..fir example someone buys a yorkie 1000$ tgey are not allowed to ask what they paid.people need to realize a small fee is putting the dog or puppy in danger of being abused.cl is one of the reason shelter pets are not getting adopted.because of their small fee policy.if anyone really cared about these animals that rule should not be allowed and any puppy under 12 weeks should not be allowed posted there.

  9. I want to warn future puppy buyers about another real threat out there. I’m going to make this short. There are thousands of websites set up that claim they are a legitimate breeders. They have beautiful websites and present themselves to be such breeders. I happen to be looking for a shihtzu puppy for my child with cancer. I spoke, textex, and e-mailed with them back and for about the transaction. From the time they picked up my money at 6:19 pm on July 12, I was unable to get a Hold of them. They would not answer my phone calls, respond to my texts or e-mails. I had been scammed. It wasn’t so much the money as the heartbreak if my sick child who had in his heart already lived the puppy. I know now, I learned the hard way you never buy anything through wire transfer. I had never bought anything off the internet before and they told me this was how it was done. After being scammed out of my money and speaking with Western Union and The Federal Trade commission and filing complaints against this company called Ultimate Shihtzu’s. I made several other calls to other website claiming to be legitimate breeders. Claiming I was interested in one of their puppies. The story was exactly the same, except he want a CVS money gram. I asked why he couldn’t take my debit card. He said they did not take debit or credit cards because of all the illegal use surrounding them. Ha that’s ironic. So I suggested pay pal. He just changed the subject on that. Everyone I brought it up he steered me in a different direction. One man continued to contact me for days. I told him how I had been scammed two days before and was gun shy. His response to me was that not everyone was like that. That he was just a puppy lover trying to find good homes for his puppies and would never scam anyone so I should just run down to my local western union and send him the money. That I could trust him. I am not sure if even one of these sites are legit. I’m sorry but all those beautiful puppy pictures that they post for sale probably don’t even exist. Be warned. Never send money to someone you have not met and legit breeders will only ask for a small deposit to hold your pup. And never under any circumstances. Send them money. You will never see it or the puppy again.

    • I got scammed the same way I gave the money to Pam. She was just as sweet as could be. Until the day she was supposed to meet me. She never showed up and wouldn’t answer my phone calls or texts. I just out 500.00 she blocked my calls. I was told there really wasn’t much I could. I did learn my lesson thou

  10. If you spent as much time actually trying to help rather than judge from inside ur twisted lil dillusional self righteous sociopathic world u might actually forget how miserable and meaningless ur own existence is for a few minutes!! It must suck to be you…

    • There is an epidemic of fanaticism and demigogery in this country and we are getting sick of it! Any time there are a few bad apples the demigogs (natzis) use it as an EXCUSE to punish EVERYONE ELSE!!! WE ARE SICK OF IT !!

  11. I was just horrased by a lady because I put my puppies on CL. Free to good homes. I live in the country and some one didn’t want their pregnant dog so they dumped her on my road just a few weeks before she gave birth. I would of never thought with as skinny as she was that she was pregnant with 5 puppies. I’ve given 2 away and still have the mom and 3 pups. Put them on CL and got some of the worst hateful texts from one lady saying that she flagged my listing and that I was stupid to put it mildly. It was very demeaning and extremely hateful and threatening to me personally. CL pet police their just vicious.

    • Hi do you still have the pups ? I’m looking for a small breed I live in an apartment and only can have a small dog I’m disability so I am home all the time looking for a puppy or young dog to give all my love to ….