Watch Tip: Free to a Good Home

Posted on November 27th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

If a friend or family member plans to give away a pet using “free to a good home” ads, you must warn of common “stranger dangers,” which include pets being used as dogfighter bait, puppy mill breeding dogs, research lab victims, or food for pet snakes. Or the pet might simply be neglected and starved by a hoarder.

Lucy, a Give-Away Pet Advertised on Craigslist, became Dogfighter Bait

Her family didn’t want her any more and the craigslist ad worked just fine to get rid of her. Three years later, Milwaukee Animal Control discovered a microchip in a drowned, bleeding, starving, dying dog and called that family. Her name had been Lucy once. The new and old wounds from head to foot revealed her long suffering in dogfighting pits. But the cold, suffering dog was shaking so hard, they could hardly examine them.

Lucy convulsed repeatedly as Milwaukee Area Department of Animal Care and Control staff tried to revive her. But she had hypothermia from being thrown into the deep water in a careless attempt to kill her. Lucy had lost too much blood from the fresh head wounds inflicted by a more powerful dog. Also, she was malnourished. Once a lively, sweet, healthy puppy with a home and family, she had been criminally abused and neglected for years. With sinking hearts, the staff euthanized her to end her terrible suffering.

Finding a New Home for a Pet is a Serious Responsibility

Protect your pet from “stranger dangers” if you must find a new home for your pet. Beware: just like junk mailers, they will try to “con” you. This is a process that can’t be rushed and you must think like a good rescue does. Start early. Remember Lucy’s story.

  • Use your social and family networks, as well as your veterinary clinic, to find responsible families who are looking to add a pet to their lives
  • Require a reasonable re-homing fee to discourage criminals and hoarders
  • Spay or neuter to discourage backyard breeders
  • Write interview questions that will reveal experience with pet ownership; weekday, night, and weekend living conditions; other family members and pets; ability to provide veterinary care when needed; dangers in the neighborhood such as nearby highways
  • Keep a list of bad neighborhoods that you will automatically refuse inquiries from
  • Screen every inquiry by telephone using your prepared questions
  • For those that pass screening, during daylight hours, visit the home with your pet when all family members and pets will be there (remember, good neighborhoods required, so you should be safe)
  • Require references, including a veterinary clinic, and call every one
  • Ask for the right to visit your former pet occasionally and then follow through
  • Ask that the family contact you first if they need to find a new home for your pet for any reason, unless you are certain they will make the same efforts you made to ensure the safety and well-being of your pet

You might consider contacting a reputable rescue for help in rehoming, or contacting a shelter ONLY if you are certain that owner-surrendered animals are provided ample opportunities for adoption through that organization. Be advised that many shelters or pounds do not, and furthermore, many will not say so. When you surrender your pet to a shelter, you will not get a phone call when they make the decision to euthanize him or her.

Read more rehoming tips here.

You must prevent your pet from coming to a bad end by doing the work required to find a truly good home. And if you are thinking about bringing a new pet into the family, please commit yourself in advance to following best practices for rehoming (such as listed above) should it unfortunately ever be required of you.

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