Free to a Bad Home

*This is a 2-part post.  Check back tomorrow for Part 2: Owner Surrenders

When a pet owner no longer wants their family pet, they tend to choose one of 3 options: surrender the pet to the animal shelter, turn them over to an animal rescue group, or give the pet away for free to a "good home." Today, I'd like to discuss the heartbreaking reality behind that last option.

Some surrendering families feel "too guilty" to dump their unwanted pet at the local pound. So instead, they post "Free to a Good Home" ads in the newspaper and on Craigslist. 

In their minds, they see this as a better option --a "more compassionate" option-- than the risk of euthanasia at the animal shelter. But they don't realize... that this is one of the most irresponsible and reckless decisions they could ever make

Why so? Well, the truth ain't always pretty, but here goes: Animal abusers and dog fighters scan newspaper ads, Craigslist, and other sites and publications in search of "Free to a Good Home" pets. The "free" component is key here... because these people aren't willing to pay anything for the animals, because the pets have no value

Abusers want these animals for sadistic pleasure. Dog fighters want them for bait. So, if you're giving away your pet for free, you're putting them in immense danger... which could very well lead to a lifetime of unimaginable torture.

The most common defense I hear on this topic is: "But I'd only let them go to a 'good home.' I'd never give them to someone who would hurt them!" Well... let me explain why that's easier said than done...

First of all, evil people don't wear shirts that say, "I'm a disgusting human." They're very skilled at presenting themselves as normal, "good" people... because for them, everything hinges on their ability to do just that. 

The best way to commit horrendous crimes without getting caught is to look like someone who would never commit those crimes. Have you ever watched the news and heard, "I just can't believe it! He seemed like such a nice, normal guy! He was a Deacon at our church! I never knew he was capable of something like this..."

Abusers rarely look like abusers. They look however they need to look in order to lure the victim of abuse: children, women, animals. Trust me... they know exactly what they need to say and do to get what they want. And if they want your pet, and you're willing to send that pet off for free based on nothing more than how this person looks, then you'll likely hand them over to a deranged monster in sheep's clothing.

Further, dog fighters don't always look like dog fighters. Believe me... dog fighting is a money sport. I'm talking millions of dollars. These people look like they have money, because they do have money. And in order to make that money, the fighting dogs must be trained to kill. How are they trained? By using bait dogs, cats, and rabbits... that were once your dogs, cats, and rabbits

These bait animals are completely disposable... so dog fighters aren't willing to pay good money to obtain them. Yet-- dog fighters need that bait for training. So where do they look? "Free to a Good Home" ads. They may also scan low-fee or no-fee animal shelters... or your backyard.

Dog fighters want your free pet for bait. They need your free pet for bait. And they'll do whatever it takes to get them. So, when they contact you... they won't look like a dog fighter. They'll look very much like a "good home."

Still don't believe me? Still convinced that you could spot a "dog fighter?" Well, consider this: Many respected individuals are involved in dog fighting. Athletes, police officers, and successful businessmen and women. People of every race, every background, and every economic class are involved in this "sport." 

For example, consider Michael Vick. People tend to forget that he wasn't always seen as a dog fighting criminal. Before his crimes were made public, Vick was a highly-respected athlete who was admired by millions of people around the world. Of course, now we all know differently, but ask yourself: Just how many Michael Vicks haven't been caught yet? Trust me... thousands of others --who you currently respect as "good people"-- are involved in this crime. They live in my hometown... and they live in your hometown.

Some of you may still think that "Free to a Good Home" ads are a good alternative. You may say, "Well, I got my pet from Craigslist, and I'm a good home." You may also think that you're capable of distinguishing the good homes from the bad homes. And maybe you're right...

But ask yourself: If there's even a chance that you could be wrong, is it worth the risk?? Because if you're wrong... the consequences are devastating.

Please, please, PLEASE don't give your family pet away for free to a "good home." Please don't use newspaper ads and Craigslist postings as a trustworthy alternative for pet re-homing. Trust me... it's NOT worth the risk.

If you're asking, "But what other option do I have?" Well... one option would be to work your ass off to keep your pet with your family. Most issues can be resolved with just a little effort, and honestly... you owe your pet that much. This option is the most compassionate, responsible, and promising option... the very best option if you truly love your pet.

Or... if you simply must re-home them, you could work with an animal rescue group to re-home your pet. Animal rescues have experience in screening potential families prior to pet adoption. Rescues also charge a pet adoption fee, to ensure that the pet has some value. In addition, pet adoption contracts are used to protect the future for that pet. 

However, it's important to remember that most animal rescue organizations are operating at maximum capacity. So, even if they're willing to help re-home your pet, they may not have space for them. If you truly care about your pet, then you should offer to keep them in your home until the rescue can find another adopter. At the very least... you owe them that much.

*Click below to read Part 2 of this post: Owner Surrenders


  1. Nice blog....love it....

    Darius Harland McPhail, Founder and President-Justice For Dogs Project...

  2. one other thing not mentioned- people that sell dogs to research labs scan the ads "free to good home' they come to you, seem perfectly nice- then sell your dog by the pound to the closest research facility. people can be quite disgusting.

  3. Ashley, this is so true. It breaks my heart to see how many people use these means to "re-home" their pets. The only pets I have re-homed were re-homed with my mom. She loves animals as much as I do and I know she would never do anything to hurt them. She also knows that if for any reason she could not keep them that I would take them back some way some how. Never would I do this to my pets, they are part of my family. Would people "re-home" their children in this way?

  4. Very, very true. Thank you for putting this info out there. But I would like to add one thing you forgot to include in the "good home" scams. Feeder Pets. People who own large snakes and carnivorous reptiles ofter scan the "free to good home" ads so that they don't have to go into a pet shop and buy expensive feeder animals, they just use your free family pet. I have encountered dozens of people who do this, taking your unwanted small animals, birds, puppies, kittens, cats, and small dogs. All get tossed into a tank to be suffocated to death, torn apart, and devoured. Its a sad truth too many people know nothing about.

  5. Very well said. May copy & post in local Craigslist.

  6. Shared on FB. I've been pleading with people for years about this. And whenever one has a chance, it'd be helpful to contact anyone advertising on CL and sending them this blog. :)

  7. BRAVO!! Thank you for posting this!


  9. Great post Ashley! I was taught this a long time ago when someone told me that med labs also look for free or inexpensive pets for testing.

    I get sick to my stomach when I see people giving away free dogs or cats or any other helpless critters. In fact my baby girl Mischa was a "free to good home" cat. But we made sure we took them all and our close friends took them in. I couldn't imagine her being abused or killed for some sick monsters pleasure.

    I will share this post..... everyone needs to read it! :D

    Has anyone told you that your rock lately? Cause you do :D

  10. This is what people need to know, because you just don't know what will happen to your pet. Education if the best medicine.


  11. I am SO GLAD you wrote this today... I have been flagging 'free to good home' ads on Craigslist for months, and posting ads explaining why people shouldn't give their pets away for free. and I always get flagged, within just a few hours. really confirms the exact point you're making, because who would flag a post trying to protect the animals? well the abusers of course! thanks for sharing this today!! let's get people to start posting this on Craigslist in every city!

  12. Don't forget about Puppy Mills and backyard breeders who look for 'free' to a good home to breed these pets to make $$ off of. We currently did a mill bust in Canada...they are saying it's the largest one in Canadian History to date. Well over 600 dogs ++ and counting with dozens of pregnant dogs about to give birth in the coming weeks ahead. This person is a repeat offender and was shut down once before. This particular mill got a lot of their dogs from 'free to a good home' Ads online, it's being reported. A lot of them are in very poor shape suffering with a various range of health problems. Some in pens, not cages, which means you would have a lot of inbreeding. This person has had several complaints against her for dogs being 'sold' with various genetic problems and many being put down by those who bought their family members from her. This is currently in the courts and we're hoping they are released to rescue where they can go to loving, good homes that are properly screened, both interviews and home visits to ensure these dogs end up in a safe place. Thank You so much for posting this and educating the public at large. I've done the same as well and will continue to do so. These places thrive in secrecy but it's a secret no more! Thank you so social media and people like you. Unfortunately, you can't force the public to do the right thing, only educate and hope they do, but it's a great start!

  13. I'm so glad you brought up Michael Vick. I'm an embarrassed Eagles fan. Too many people see Michael Vick and see a good looking, seemingly well educated man and forget that he's a murderer. Looks can be deceiving.

  14. This is a great message, but sadly I would guess that people who are reading your blog are not the people who would give their dog/cat away. However, having said that, you are correct in what you write. Dog fighters are criminals and they don't wear a sign. Dogs and cats are like children, you keep them for life, that is the responsibility you accept when you get them. Keep up the good work, you are an inspiration!

  15. I try to educate people about this practice whenever I see "Free to good home" ads. In fact, I have several letters I've put together that I use to respond to those ads, that list all the dangers. If anybody would like copies of the letters to use, just email me and I'll send them to you. yelodoggie@yahoo.com

  16. I tried posting this on Craigslist in Atlanta and it got flagged and taken down in 10 minutes tops... so instead I started emailing it out to those who have said "Free Dogs" and it hurts my heart to know how many people just don't care and had dickish and sassy comments back to me. I wish I could take all the pups in.

  17. http://cats.about.com/cs/kittencare/a/freekittuns.htm

    please read and share this heartbreaking warning (in story form) of the dangers of giving away pets

  18. You'd be surprised at how many non-rescue people read this blog. Every time someone shares one of my posts, a new reader clicks and becomes educated about a topic. Don't assume that these posts only reach the dedicated readers. I've received many emails to the contrary :)

  19. Another way to avoid having to find homes for puppies and kittens? SPAY and NEUTER.

  20. Another danger of offering your pet, "Free to a Good Home" is the risk that the adopter will take the animal to a animal testing or research facility. Please, please don't ever offer your precious cat or dog for free!!

  21. Excellent post - thank you. When putting your pet in the paper under "free for the taking," you can't ask for money but you CAN ask for vet references. I really appreciate one of your last points about working through a rescue. I have a small hound sanctuary affiliated with a larger cat/dog sanctuary. I currently list a dog for a woman who was a stray; the other dog I listed for her was adopted through that listing on Petfinder so we have high hopes for Copper, too. I am happy to list dogs, particularly hounds, for people who truly need to find them new homes and who are able to keep them till we find a home. Right now, I am full to the brim with another Coonhound being welcomed on Saturday.
    BTW, saw a poster by a group of a football player who "is a quarterback's worst nightmare but is Tucker's best friend." He was in his uniform with his dog, Tucker.

  22. Great article! A lot of people need to know this even if you post it in Craigslist yourself. Thanks for the article will share this.

  23. i wish i thought about this earlier. my brother gave his bunny to a lady on kijiji. now i'm worried. i can only pray.

  24. Great article! And I love your quote at the bottom of your page. Did you write that? If so, could I have permission to share it on my rescue page? It is wonderful!


  25. Correction to previous post... poundsforhounds.blogspot.com

  26. Superb article, I have bookmarked this web-site so with any luck, I will discover more on this topic in the future!

  27. This is such an enlightening article. Sometimes we people are blinded especially when we are always surrounded by good people. Actually, the author is correct, not all good people are truly good in nature.

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  29. I am just trying to understand. I always hear that puppy's are not products.[like a piece of furniture that you throw out.] But won't putting a price tag on them mean that they are products? Would that mean that you are buying a dog? I know that when you adopt you should pay the adoption fee but not all shelters/rescues have those. Not trying to be mean just not understanding the Free to a Bad home.

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  31. Such a great and informative post about dog rescue. Thanks for sharing and keep posting!

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  35. It seems to me that what we could have here is the chicken or the egg scenario. (BTW- I agree with what the article was stating.) However- for the purposes of conversation here, let me make some suggestions as to how to avoid the "free-to-a-good-home" scene int he first place? Have people spay or neuter their pets. If there is an organization in your area which provides these services to lower-income people, petition them to make it hassle-free for the applicant. Make the Animal agency Executive Directors formulate agency policy "hassle free" (as in not giving out the embarrassing whole life history down to every tenth of the penny with 45 forms of verified, notarized ID,et al, etc). Call one of the board of directors or join the committees or board of directors yourselves.The EX DIR's are usually paid. Make this part of their job description. While you're at it- have a good look at the membership rolls of these agencies. Make sure that any LANDLORD listed on their membership rolls offers housing which allow pets in their units. A lot of these lovely pet-owning members will join the groups and be hypocrites with forcing tenant families to get rid of their own pets just for a place to live. Oh, yeah- it happens. If the landlord members dont like the new policy: fine, evict them from the agency rolls or deny them entrance into future years. Also- check to see the agency expenditures. If you think that too much donated or raised money goes to payroll while animals are being euthanized at the shelter- DO something to change it. On a personal note, if you see someone, a pet-lover/owner in the neighborhood struggling to make ends meet, reach out and DO something: buy a bag of pet food, bedding or litter / sawdust/ paper shreds. Veteran's agencies are placing some pets with needy vets. Children's mental health and also some aging agencies place pets with their clientele. If you see an elderly pet lover with some issues, offer to vacuum, clean their cat box or buy em a can of cat food. If you are a lawyer- pro bono ADA cases that will fight to keep pets in their depression-ridden owners' care. Join alleycat allies. Do whatever you can do as a neighbor, friend, or fellow citizen to help these people keep and maintain their pets. If you know of a vet- bagger the hell outta them to provide some reduced services to low income people. Yeah, they'll cry poverty at ya, but- believe me- most vets are not exactly poor as most of us. And they have some connections with pharmacies, etc. If they can think out of the heart instead of out of the wallet- they'll find a way to help. OK- I think I've given the point.

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