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?

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