About Adopting

The Scary Truth About “Free to a Good Home” Dog Classifieds

craigslistdogEvery responsible dog owner or pet parent knows that getting a dog is a life-long commitment. From the moment you open your heart and home to a loyal dog, you’re in it for the long haul, through sickness and health, ups and downs, good and bad, through snuggles on the couch to picking up the pieces of yet another pair of shredded shoes.

Responsible dog owners make decisions with their dog in mind. We don’t move to a new home without making sure the furkids are welcomed in the new community, we don’t spend frivolously without making sure the dog is cared for first, and, when times get tough, we’ll skip a meal so that the dog still gets his.

Unfortunately, not all dog owners are responsible. Close to 4 million dogs enter rescue shelters each year in the United States alone, with about 60% of these facing euthanasia. Shelters and animal rescues are busting at the seams as a direct result of irresponsible pet ownership.

Still, even responsible dog owners can sometimes find themselves searching for a good home for their beloved pet. Unexpected circumstances, illness, injury, death, economic collapse. Things happen.

Because our rescues and shelters are packed full, responsible pet owners have an increasingly tough time finding a good home for their pets and are turning to direct-to-consumer classified ads, like Craigslist or the local newspaper, thinking that they’re doing the right thing for their dog. Sometimes, a good samaritan finds a stray dog and, rather than call animal control and risk the dog being euthanized, will put up a classified ad to find a new home.

We visited Craigslist’s pet classified section and contacted several dog owners offering “free to a good home” dogs on the site with questions about their dogs, their reason for re-homing them, and their decision to use a classified ad for their precious dogs. Most advertisers ignored us, but a few responded. Here’s what we found:

A military family was deploying overseas and couldn’t take their pitbull-mix; a single mother was having another child and could no longer afford to care for her Catahoula-mix; another was re-homing his deceased father’s beloved Beagle. Though most of us would find ways to keep our dogs in each of these cases, none of them are particularly terrible reasons to re-home an animal.

All 3 were genuinely concerned for the well-being of their dogs and felt they were doing the right thing. All 3 listed their pets as “free to a good home” because they didn’t want to profit from a “sale” of their pet, but ultimately only wanted to find a loving home for the pets they cared for. All 3 respondents above claimed to have contacted shelters and/or rescue groups before using Craigslist but were denied any help due to overcrowding and felt they had no other options.

All 3 pulled or modified their ads when we explained what really happens to “free to a good home” pets.

So, what really happens to “free to a good home” dogs?

– Last year, Jeffrey Nally Jr. was charged with 29 counts of animal cruelty because of the massive number of dead animal found on his West Virginia property. Nally had obtained at least 29 animals through “free to a good home” Craigslist ads, just like the ones we responded to.

– Patricia Hervey of Texas, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of animals at her Bexar County home. Hervey prowled Craigslist for “free” animals, claimed to run an animal shelter near San Antonio, took money from dog owners to use to re-home them, then shot and killed them, dumping their bodies in a lake behind her home.

– Dogfighting circles use free Craigslist dogs as “bait dogs” for training their own dogs to fight without risking injury, or they take in free dogs and train those to be fighters as well.

– Other groups, called “Bunchers” scour classifieds for free dogs, then sell them to laboratories for animal research and experimentation.

– And, sometimes, a free ad for re-homing a purebred, unaltered dog will result in the former family dog being picked up by a puppy mill breeder to spend the rest of her life as a caged, malnourished, unloved breeding machine.

The people looking specifically for “free to a good home” dogs will go to great lengths to appear legitimately interested in providing a perfect, loving home for the dog. They present themselves as well-to-do, responsible dog lovers. They often bring children along to meet the dog and owner to avoid suspicion. They will make up elaborate stories about previous pets, a perfect home and yard, and promise to provide a loving forever home to the helpless animal.

If, for some reason (and it better be a good one), you must re-home your pet, there are some steps you can take to ensure he goes to a good home. Pet-Abuse.com offers up some wonderful tips for pet owners facing this challenging dilemma.

  • Don’t advertise “Free pet”
  • Spay/neuter the animal to avoid attracting backyard breeders or puppy mill operators
  • Charge at least $25 to discourage resale of pets to labs and others
  • Ask each prospective owner for his/her veterinarian’s name as a reference and check it.
  • Ask for identification in the form of a photo I.D. Write down the information, or scan/photocopy it if possible
  • Ask for a phone number and explain that you’d like to check on how the animal’s doing. An honest person will gladly share the information with you.
  • Have the person sign an “adoption” contract concerning your pet stating that they will not go to research. Having this in writing gives you legal recourse.
  • Ask to visit the place where your pet will live before your release the pet to the new owner.

If a dog owner truly cares about the life and well-being of the dog being re-homed, taking the steps above to ensure he goes to a good home are worth the time and effort.

What should you do if you find a “free to a good home” dog classified ad?

Whenever possible, contact the dog’s owner and warn them of the dangers of giving away their dog for free. As we discovered, not everyone will listen. So, if the ad is on the internet, contact the site owner to request that they disallow the posting of ads for free animals on their site.

Bookmark this page and send the link to anyone trying to give away a free dog.

These dogs are depending on us.




  1. Kris

    Dec 28, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    The no kill shelter actually has statistic proof that people who give away dogs as free to good home the dogs were still just as likely to find a good loving home where they are cared for. One of my dogs was given to me and is a spoiled brat, the other was ready a day after a free adoption event so cost $35 and is just as spoiled. I found a stray cat and paid 25 at a shelter for a cat, and none of my 4 babies want for anything and are all spoiled rotten. I’ve paid nothing over 35 for any of them either and all r 100% vaccinated, fixed and healthy. People who try to deter this r actually aiding in euthanasia here in the us. I can tell u that the same ppl who fall victim to posts like this are the same ones who have pit bulls banned bcz they r all vicious. (They r really big babies and people pleases for those who didn’t know). There r idiots everywhere and just bcz some people r really stupid doesn’t mean that u r automatically dooming ur pet bcz u need/want to get rid of them. As well as we can all judge what reasons people get rid of their pets but in the end they r going to anyway bcz they don’t want them, so y not help out the pet and the shelter and let them use places to at least try before they just dump them off, drown them (Yeah that really does happen especially to puppies and kittens) or drop them at an overcrowded kill shelter

  2. Pingback: No Throwaway Pets | A Heart for Shelter Dogs

  3. Meg

    Nov 3, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    This is fine, but it’s illegal to maintain copies of people’s drivers licenses and other identifying documents. You can write the number and information down, but you can’t keep a copy of it.

  4. Pingback: Ask the Trainer: Should I Spay or Neuter My Dog? – The Dogington Post

  5. T

    Aug 1, 2016 at 4:47 am

    I am looking to rehome my chi mix. I am scared of shelters. It is hard because I love her but i work 12 hour shifts. She is alone too much. I can hear whining and barking outside my apartment at 4 am after work. She needs a good home and to be around ppl who can give her the attention she deserves. My family and friends all comment on how cute she is but nobody wants her. I do not know the next step. Suggestions?

    • Dorothy

      Aug 14, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Is your dog under 30lbs? I have been looking for a young dog or puppy for over 6 months since my High orkue Emma passed away at the age of 15. I answered an add on Craig’s list and they stole all my money So now I don’t have any money or at least not much to buy or adopt a dog. I have the money to take care of the dog but after my money was stolen I have very little to buy one.

      I am interested in your dog. If u could send me a pic or two I would appreciate it!!


  6. Renee

    Jun 28, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    We found our sweet 6 year old dog on Craigslist as silly as it seems. He is a Shi Tzu / Bichon Mix and I can’t imagine life without him. His previous owners were very odd. I question the real reason why they were rehoming him. She had just had a baby and there was another dog in the home. He was not neutered and was marking all over the house/ not housetrained because he had accidents. We were told he was the runt of the litter…they had him since he was a puppy. He seemed to be afraid of everything…and continues to be afraid of people and dogs. Anyhow, I started out looking for a dog like him at shelters, the humane society, etc. I have a disability that makes my voice a bit weak at times and I felt that I was judged just by the sound of my voice when I called about a dog and the women at the shelter did a phone interview…the person on the phone hadn’t even met me..she had already said I wasn’t a good fit for the dog before I even met him or her…it was my meek voice (my husband phoned back)…who are these people anyway…they’ve gone a little nutz I think…judging who can and can’t have a dog over the phone…and the process you have to go through to get a dog I mean come on….I would have to drive 2 hours from where I live to even see a prospective dog…wait you have to live near the foster…and have a home visit…and…and…and…the list goes on and on and on…and then to be told no because you don’t like the way I look or sound or whatever…and you wonder why people are getting dogs off Craigslist

    • John Doe

      Aug 26, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      Amen. That’s my biggest problem with these “rescue” shelters. THEY decide what type of dog you should get. THEY decide whether you’re a responsible dog owner. THEY dictate how to careforyourdog. THEY dictate the future of your dog should you no longer be able to care for them. I understand they want a good home, but they take it to far. That’s why I’m looking for a “free to a good home” dog.

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