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For whatever reason, you have found yourself in a situation where you can’t keep your beloved furry family member and you want to find them a really good home. Money isn’t important – you just want them to be loved and cherished the way they deserve to be and you’ve run out of family or friends who are willing to take them. There are no shelters with no-kill policies nearby and you refuse to gamble with fate and hope that they get adopted in time.

So you put an ad up on Craigslist or Facebook and advertise your dog or cat under “free to a good home.” Sounds innocent enough, right? You’re just looking out for your dear pet and trying to find them a new forever home.

However, as good as your intentions may be, there are some very serious reasons why you might want to reconsider.

During a recent study, it was discerned that 41 percent of all owner-surrendered animals at shelters were obtained via “free to good home” ads. Not to mention, when you forfeit your pet to someone you’ve never met nor know anything about, there’s a potential that Fluffy’s new happy ending could really be a horror story wrought with neglect, cruelty, and abuse.

While we wish this weren’t the case, here are a few things that you might want to consider before submitting that advertisement.

1. Cruelty

It can be difficult to discern the true motivations of the person to whom you are giving your pet. While they might appear to be the perfect candidate on paper, is that a risk you’re really willing to take?

In 2012, Patricia Hervey was found guilty of scouring Craigslist for animals listed as “free to a good home,” and contacting guardians claiming that she ran a shelter. Hervey would then charge the pet parents a fee for “rehoming” their animals, house the claimed pets in filthy conditions and then shoot them.

2. Test Subjects

People known as “Bunchers,” collect groups of pets to sell to Class B dealers. These dealers are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy and sell animals “from random sources” into research trials. Often times the dealers take the animals and transport them out of states. According to Save our Shepherds, “Almost every cosmetic, household, and chemical product is tested on animals, including former pets obtained from shelters and Class B Dealers. Veterinary schools and medical schools, and even some engineering schools use dogs and cats in classrooms and ‘research.’ Textile manufacturers who make products for medical use test and demonstrate on dogs, frequently retired racing greyhounds.”

3. Breeders

Animals not spayed or neutered are often obtained by puppy mill owners to serve as breeding dogs. They are kept in cramped kennels, often outside, and human contact is minimal. There is often no regular veterinary care and they are used purely as baby-making machines.

4. Bait

Dog fighters will often target “free to good home” ads to find cats, kittens, puppies and submissive dogs that they will use as bait to train other dogs to be aggressive killers. Some larger dogs are trained to be fighters, as well, and if they lose a fight they are brutally punished and left to die. In a tragic recent incident, a female Pit Bull, Cabela, was purchased to serve as a fighting dog but was “too sweet-tempered” so her owners shot her and left her tied to the train tracks. Luckily, Cabela was rescued and is now in recovery.

5. Flippers

These people collect animals from freebie ads to resell for profit in flea markets and online ads. Their care is minimal are they are not vetted; they are seen as money-makers and nothing else. Additionally, these sellers take little interest in where they animals they “flip” end up, meaning another potential disaster for former pets.

6. Food

Free animals are sometimes obtained as food for pet snakes and even, at times, to be eaten by humans. Earlier this year David Williford was arrested for getting free and low-cost pets from Craigslist, torturing and killing them, and then eating them. Some of the animals were starved to death and there were bones found all around his home. He was charged with twelve counts of animal cruelty against rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and dogs.

Finding a Better Option for Your Beloved Pet

It can be easy to be tricked by people who reply to “free to good home” ads. They often arrive as a family, complete with children in tow. They put on a good front and have a wonderful story about how they are all animal lovers and are looking for a new addition to the family. They will tell you whatever they think you want to hear.

When you are considering re-homing your pet please consider whether or not you absolutely need to do so. Upon adopting a pet, you take on the responsibility to provide that animal with love and to see to his or her needs for life. If you are having behavioral issues with your pet, perhaps a trainer or veterinarian can help. If you don’t have as much time to spend together as you used to, hire a pet sitter to come visit during the day.

If there absolutely is no option to keep your pet and you truly must re-home her, please do so responsibly. There are a few things that are absolutely required to help ensure her safety.

  • Charge a re-homing fee. Show the animal is worth something to you and anyone who really cares will understand. This will help discourage those who prey on free and cheap animals.
  • Use an adoption application and adoption contract. You can find them online or you can ask to use one from your local animal rescues.
  • Get a copy of their driver’s license to verify their identity. Be sure to check public records for any criminal history.
  • Do a vet check. This simply entails calling their veterinarian and asking if their pets are all current on vaccinations and are spayed or neutered. If they are, that’s a good indication they will take proper care of your pet.
  • Ask for two or three personal or professional references.
  • Do a home visit. Go to their house and make sure it is safe. Is the backyard fenced in? Are there outer buildings that look like they may have housed breeding animals at one time? You don’t have to require a meticulous home that would pass a white glove test, but you want to make sure the home is safe and that your pet will be treated like part of the family.

Image source: InkHong/Flickr

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99 comments on “Why Using a ‘Free to Good Home’ Ad to Find a New Family for Your Pet is a Bad Idea”

Click to add comment
Matilda Matthews
1 Years Ago

Relinquishing your pet may be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. It may be a result of divorce, allergies, the birth of a child, uninformed choices, and sometimes irresponsibility or a change in lifestyle. People in these situations often unload their pet at a shelter because it is the quickest way to do an uncomfortable thing. https://www.petlove.love/

Nancy McGinnis
1 Years Ago

A pet is a physical family member.

Cat Haly
1 Years Ago


Fran Smith
1 Years Ago

Please only allow certified rescues to help you find a home for your pet.

Barendsen Miriam
1 Years Ago

Fucking hell. Free to a good home, How stupid can you be!

Kathie Scarponcini Brink
1 Years Ago

If you need to read this, then you should never have an animal in your life. Stupidity is not an excuse..

Brianna Nicole
1 Years Ago

I adopted my pit bull through a free ad and we loved her until she died. I understand what this list is saying but we can't say that none of the people who adopt actually plan on killing these animals

Patricia Blakeston
1 Years Ago

Anybody who advertises an animal free to good home on any of the animal rehoming sites , does not give a damn about where that animal is going and what it is used for , they want rid of it because they do not care . there is no other way it can be looked at , period .

Kathy McWilliams-Lloyd
1 Years Ago

Please don't do this to your family member - dear knows what can happen. Do your due diligence - you owe that to your pet.

Kasmira Thompson
1 Years Ago

I do independent rescue and rehome therefore I am self-funded. NONE of my animals go anywhere without a completed application, an online background check, a home check and a vet check. If people refuse to any of this or think it's absurd they are not fit to be parents of the animals I am rehoming and if they can't pass any of these steps they are not the parents I'm looking for. I don't toy with innocent lives. Any animal that crosses my path is guaranteed to get their happy ending/new beginning<3

29 May 2017

Although very commendable, Kasmira, but do you then check in on the animals in the future? Perhaps a month later? Six months? One year? Our no-kill shelter does. Part of our application stipulates that if any of the \'rules\' the adopter agrees to is not done, we reserve the right to confiscate the pet. Once they sign, they\'re bound by the contract. We HAVE confiscated animals too. That\'s what true due diligence is all about.

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