By Phil Snyder, Executive Director Suncoast Humane Society
When we bring a pet into our home and they become part of our family, we plan for that relationship to last for the lifetime of the pet. We make a commitment to provide for them, keeping them as safe and secure as we do our other family members.
There are many reasons given to animal shelter personnel from families who feel they must break that commitment and surrender their pet. We shake our heads at some of the less understandable excuses, however, there are those individuals that have been dealt an unfair blow and are facing circumstances beyond their control. For them, we are thankful that after agonizing over this painful decision, they chose to take their pet to a bona fide animal welfare/care organization where staff are trained to adopt pets into appropriate, loving homes.
Sadly, and for whatever reason, some people feel that offering their pet, “Free to Good Home” is an easy solution to their problem. They may hang posters on street corners, or place newspaper classified ads (it is my feeling that newspapers should not accept free to good home ads for animals). Nowadays many people use Facebook and Craigslist. Free to good home advertising is not a good idea and, in fact, could end in tragedy for the pet.
Believe it or not, sick and demented people scan free to good home ads and prey on people’s desperation, only to abuse, torture or kill the pet. Dog fighters look for free pets to use as bait for the training of fighting dogs. These too are tortured and killed. There are still Class B dog dealers that acquire animals in unscrupulous ways to sell to laboratories for experimentation. A lesser known activity is “pet flipping,” where pets obtained for free or very little are resold for profit. Some end up in the above categories.
One case that I personally was involved in was the investigation of a family in the Midwest that collected dogs from free to good home ads, while also stealing dogs throughout multiple states. The family would drive truckloads of dogs to a southeastern coastal state and sell them to hunt clubs. These untrained random dogs were scattered among teams of trained hunting dogs. Caught up in the excitement of a chase, their mission was to help flush deer from the swamp areas to a clearing where the deer would be shot from the back of pick-up trucks, with high powered riffles. The savvy trained dogs would survive, but many of the untrained, low priced dogs fell prey to alligators, snakes and drowning. This was called hunting.
Of course there are some pets obtained free that work out well but, is it worth taking the chance? You are committed to ensuring your pet’s welfare, don’t just give him/her to a stranger and hope for the best. Consider the following suggestions:
- Place a value on your pet. $50 or more will help avoid an impulse placement and also deter many of the bad guys. It also lets you know they can afford to care for the pets
- Meet in person, make sure the potential home is a family decision.
- Check previous pet ownership and veterinary history.
- A home visit may be wise.
- Create and sign an adoption agreement.
Facing the challenges of re-homing a pet that you are attached to is not easy. If your efforts leave you unsure of your pet’s long term safety and welfare, remember, your local humane society, animal shelter and rescue groups adopt out animals on a daily basis. They are specialists with placing pets with families that are ready, willing and prepared for the responsibility. Animal shelter policies on accepting surrendered pets vary so, it is wise to call first and inquire.
Please don’t make a hasty decision that your pet may end up paying for.