No More "Free to Good Home" Ads!
'Free To Good Home' Pet Ads Are Dangerous
Call me daft, dense, dumb, naïve, or “special” but my ignorance can be your gain. I was appalled to learn this week that Free to Good Home kittens and puppies may be put in real danger, even fatal situations, once adopted.
Let me start at the beginning. I have 3 kids, 4 cats and a dog. My only female cat, Bella, had 5 babies a little over 2 months ago. Yes, I DO spay and neuter my pets BUT I didn’t realize Bella was old enough to get pregnant. I know – let me repeat my statement from above. “Call me daft, dense, dumb, naïve, or ‘special’ but my ignorance can be your gain.” Okay, now that we have that out of the way I will continue my story. The birth of the kittens brought me to a total of 3 kids, NINE cats and a dog. I am moving in less than a month and I cannot take all these animals with me. Thankfully the kittens were just old enough to be weaned and given to new loving homes where they can spend the rest of their days being lazy and eating high-protein specialized cat foods.
Re-homing a Pet Can Be Tricky
I placed ads in the local newspaper and on Craigslist for my kittens. I advertised them as free to good, loving homes. I was excited, giddy even, that I was getting so many responses to my ads almost immediately. I shared the great news with my close friend Jim (aka TheManWithNoPants) who pointed out that all the responses and inquiries for my kittens were from men. I laughed off my friend’s tendency to be overprotective and I corresponded with the interested parties. Each person seemed to want a different kitten so it looked as though it was going to work out perfectly!
My first kitten went to a middle-aged couple who had been looking for a male baby for a few weeks. The couple met me in a busy parking lot and looked over all my kittens. The woman snatched up the fattest, fluffiest of the group and hugged him to her neck, beaming like a new mama. I talked to the couple for a good 15 minutes and they played with all the kittens. They ooh’ed and aah’ed over all of them and told me sweet stories about other cats they had once owned. When I peeked in the couple’s car I saw a couple bags of kitten food, a litter pan and a bag of litter. I felt very sure my kitten was going to get a new loving home. I went home elated.
Once home I replied to the rest of the men who had expressed interest in the kittens. I told them, via email, that my husband and I would love to meet with them in a public place so they could see the kittens. I was bummed out when none of the men expressed further interest. All communication stopped – and it has been several days. I was beginning to wonder what was going on when I got an email from a young man who was interested in my male gray tabby. His email said he had a gray tabby just like it a few months back but when he broke up with his girlfriend she took the cat. He said he misses having a cat in the house and that he is a great pet owner. He left me his telephone number and asked me to call with more information. When I finally got around to calling this nice young man back I had to leave a voicemail with MY phone number for him to call ME back. He returned my call at 10 pm that night. I was once again excited that someone was interested in my sweet little fuzz balls.
Kittens As Snake Food?!
As I talked to the young man red flags went up and bells went off - but I chose to ignore them.
The conversation went like this:
Me: So you had a cat before and lost it in a breakup?
Him: Yes. And I am a great pet owner. Have the kittens been to a vet?
Me: No, not yet.
Him: Well what kind of screening procedure do you have in place? I know most people get animals off Craigslist for less than nice reasons.
Me: Wait…humor me here. Im a little naïve and I have no idea what you mean. I have to ask – what kind of not nice reasons would a person want a kitten!?
Him: Well the person might want to abuse the animal or maybe shouldn’t have pets because they’re just going to neglect it. I have had all kinds of pets from dogs to boa constrictors.
Me: *Bells dinging and flags a-flying*
Him: Well, I don’t have time off until Tuesday so I will call back and touch base with you Sunday or Monday to set something up to see the kittens.
Me: Okay, sounds – oops! Gotta cut this short, my other line is beeping. Thanks for calling – bye!
The next day at work a co-worker asked me how the hunt for homes was going. I told her about the rapid response to my ads and she said “Oh, no. No no no – you DO know why people adopt free kittens from Craigslist, right? They feed them to their snakes.” I was suddenly sick to my stomach thinking about all the kittens I have re-homed over the years. All the sweet little faces that I stared into while brushing fur, all the soft little baby purrs I heard when the babies were cradled up to my neck with my cheek on their heads. I kept trying to tell myself this was stuff of urban legends and awful rumors. This was simply a tale, made up by some suspicious mind somewhere, that took hold because it was so disgusting. I sat at work getting more and more agitated at the idea of kittens as snake food. So I did what any self-respecting writer does – I hit up Google. I did a search and my heart stopped beating almost instantly. There, in black and white, were tons of search results for blogs, PETA news releases, YouTube videos, and forums about people adopting free kittens (and puppies) to use as live feeders. The blogs offered stories and opinions but no real information about increasing the chances for adopted pets to get into loving homes. PETA news releases shared a copy of a letter people can send to newspapers and classified ad sites to get ‘Free to Good Home’ sections disabled. YouTube is full of results for pulled videos whose captions and summaries boast large snakes eating adopted kittens (and puppies). And sadly, forums reinforced that there are indeed people in this world who engage in this horrendous behavior. During all my reading I did manage to find one news story, way down the search results page, that offered some ways to protect the little ones you are adopting out. I have included those at the end of this article. Pay special attention to the suggestion to screen interested parties with a questionnaire. By Jove! I was super stoked that I was making progress in terms of adopting out my kittens while still protecting them to the best of my ability. So bring on the questionnaire! Hey – where is a link or file for the questionnaire? How am I supposed to know what questions to ask someone and what answers to accept? I had to perform another Google search: Kitten adoption questionnaire. A-ha! There it was – an official questionnaire the animal shelters use when people are interested in kittens and puppies.
As a side note, I would like to thank my dear, sweet, hot friend Jim for trying to protect me and my kittens. He was right!
The Official Adoption Questionnaire
- Kitten Rescue
Kitten Rescue, a Los Angeles-based organization, rescues cats and kittens from shelter euthanasia and abandonment, providing care until they are adopted. We also offer help and education to the public on caring for rescued or adopted animals, respons
A Happy Ending?
I have since pulled all my Free to Good Home ads and I will revisit the possibility of a newspaper ad once I have further educated myself on the safest possible way to find new homes for my kittens. Who knows? Maybe I will just have to keep the kittens and take care of them for the rest of their lives. It’s what I am willing to do to make sure my babies are treated with the kindness and love all animals deserve. Am I a hoarder? No. I am simply a person who is willing to take on the responsibility of letting my female cat run around without getting her spayed. Have I learned my lesson? You better believe it! Will I do my best to alert others to this sick practice? Forever.
Other Dangers Faced by Free to Good Home Animals
Bunchers gather free pets until they have enough for a trip to a Class B Dealer. A Class B Dealer is licensed by the USDA to accumulate animals from "random sources" to be sold for research. Bunchers find these animals in newspaper ads, pet adoption web sites and even snatch these animals from yards. You can prevent a Buncher from grabbing up your little sweetie by asking for a re-homing fee for the pet. Bunchers won’t pay $20 for a pet they are only going to make $25 on. They’ll pass by your ad in search of the Free to Good Home ads.
Free to Good Home animals may also be taken to "blood" pit-bulls--to train fighting dogs how to kill, and to enjoy it. This is the case for dogs and cats, of any size. Bigger dogs aren’t immune to this kind of abuse. A larger dog's muzzle will often be duct-taped shut so that he can't bite back and the fighting dog will gain confidence in killing a dog larger than he is.
Collectors / Animal Hoarders watch newspapers for Free to Good Home animals. These collectors and animal hoarders truly believe they are helping these pets. However, many collectors become overwhelmed by the number of pets they have taken in and they abandon the animals – leaving them to fend for themselves while starting up a new, smaller collection elsewhere.
Other Helpful Sites
How to Protect Pets you are Trying to Adopting Out
Let’s keep in mind that some folks answering the "Free to Good Home" ads really are loving, responsible pet owners. However, many--maybe even most--are not. There ARE certain steps you can take to help end the abuse:
DO NOT advertise free pets and convince others not to as well. Some people even phone owners of pets who are advertising them as Free to Good Home to warn them of the dangers.
Spay/neuter your pet to keep from creating possible Free to Good Home situations
Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers to warn them of the dangers to Free to Good Home pets
Charge at least $25 to discourage resale of pets to testing labs and Class B Dealers
Take the time to interview a prospective owner. Ask for references and check them! Then visit the home where your pet might be living.
Write a letter to your congressmen in support of doing away with Class B dealers who sell animals obtained from "random sources" (including strays, stolen pets, seized shelter animals, animals purchased at flea markets, and pets found through "Free to good home" ads) to research facilities.
Report any incidence of suspected dog-fighting
Require in writing that if the adoption does not work out, the companion animal must be returned to you