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Craigslist is a Bad Place to Buy Pets

Like most people, I have used Craigslist to land great deals on household items sold at often-inexpensive prices.  As a road cyclist, I also used the site to sell my old road bike when it came time to upgrade to a newer one.  To be sure, Craigslist serves a useful purpose in many ways, even helping people to find employment.  But when it comes to looking to buy a new pet, it is absolutely the wrong place to go.

I finished today’s workday seeing a lovely young couple, two quality individuals the likes of which it is my privilege to serve.  The young lady having had an affinity and love of Bengal cats but was having trouble finding breeders reasonably nearby to find one, she had taken to Craigslist to search for a Bengal kitten.

She promptly found what she was looking for, but when she went to see the litter that was available to choose from, something did not feel right about the experience from the outset.  The home of the breeder looked run down and unkempt, the yard overgrown with uncut grass, bushes and weeds everywhere.  The breeder also brought the basket of kittens outside, not allowing the couple in the home.

The couple picked out their new kitten, but contrary to Florida state pet law requirements, the breeder presented no state health certificate for sale (that just be signed by a licensed veterinarian), and no evidence that that the kitten had ever been evaluated by a veterinarian at all.  Within one day of bringing him home, the young owners quickly noted that the kitten had fleas, that he was sick, showing gastrointestinal and upper respiratory disease signs.   After bringing the kitten to my clinic, they learned that he was sick with parasites and an upper respiratory infection, both of which were treated by my associate veterinarian.

Oddly, sometime later, the breeder called the young couple and asked them if they would be interested in a free kitten that had an eye infection, that if they were willing to take on the expense to have it treated, they could have the kitten for free.   Despite the creepy vibe they got from this breeder and the already bad experience they had had with her, they still loved the kitten they got from her, and did not want to think about what this person may do with the kitten with the eye infection if they would not take her.

This time around, the couple was actually invited into the home, and what they saw appalled them.  The house was filthy, and there were un-neutered and unsprayed cats all over the place, free to breed at will and provide a constant influx of new kittens to provide her income….yet not given any access to veterinary care whatsoever.   The cats were all covered in fleas, and many looked in poor health.  The woman intimated to the couple that she was looking to sell off the remainder of the cats as soon as possible, as her house was in foreclosure and could not take the cats with her.

Worst of all, when the couple saw the kitten that was being given to them provided they were willing to deal with the “eye infection,” they saw that there really was no functional eye to see.  Where there was once an eye, was now little more than an ocular socket with macerated tissue and pus oozing out of it.  Once the kitten was brought into my hospital and examined, we determined that was once likely a simple eye infection, due to the breeder’s neglect and refusal to have the kitten seen by a veterinarian, the infection ultimately destroyed the eye.   There was no recourse other than to have the remnants of the eye surgically debrided, the eye socket flushed, and the eyelids trimmed and sutured closed:  a salvage procedure known as an enucleation.

Hoping to put an end to this “cattery from hell,” the couple went to our county Animal Law Enforcement division to report the appalling conditions numerous cats were kept in, none with even a current rabies vaccine (a violation of Florida pet law), and in numbers that were well beyond municipal limits for household pets.

Unfortunately, the Animal Enforcement officer told them that due to budget cuts and lack of resources, such a situation was not severe enough to allocate their assets to address, which must be reserved for the worst of cases.  Whether this this was really true, or this was a simply a lazy or uncaring officer that was unsympathetic to the described condition of the cats in question, it is a sad situation.

Long story short, this young couple took it upon themselves to help this poor excuse for not just a breeder, but also a human being, and provide homes for these cats as her foreclosure looms ever closer.  I saw two more of them today.  At their own expense, the couple is having the cats treated for chronic ailments they have suffered from months and for the adult cats, years of neglect.  They are also having them properly immunized, given flea treatment, and spayed and neutered prior to homing them to friends and family.  In the midst of seeing the dark side of the pet industry, we take some solace in having seen this young couple be an example of the very best.  This story is still troubling nonetheless.

I felt obliged to share this story and spread awareness of this new facet of the pet industry that has come about in our modern, internet driven world: the sale of pets online on sites like Craigslist.  This is only one of many example of bad circumstances that I have seen come from the purchase of pets off Craigslist in the past 18 months, as this new practice begins to gain momentum.

Operating incognito from private homes, their operations fly under the radar of veterinarians, other scrupulous breeders that may otherwise call them out, and of course, law enforcement.  They often bring the pets to a third party location for sale, carefully hiding the true nature of their operation.  Feeling immune from state laws that are in reality often only loosely enforced, they sell animals that have had no veterinary care, no immunizations or deworming, are often inbred, and commonly end up being generally unhealthy from the results of all of this.  Worst of all, their breeding animals are the ones who suffer the most, not much removed from the lives of breeding animals in puppy mills and catteries, where animals are bred relentlessly until they die, living in cages, never having access to veterinary care, being eaten alive by fleas, and not being given any semblance of decent nutrition.

Buying pets on Craigslist not only poses a high risk of a bad experience for you as consumers, but also feeds an appalling side of the pet industry and encourages these people to continue to stay in business, leaving suffering, misery and death in their wake.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.

16 thoughts on “Craigslist is a Bad Place to Buy Pets

  1. Julie says:

    The true meaning behind HOPE! A sad story regarding our puppy.

    Everyone has experienced a lapse in judgment when it comes to the heart – my family did it, we own it and if anyone wants to comment with anything negative about our decision just know we are already paying for it so nothing more negative needs to be said… It’s done and now those who will or have met HOPE will now understand the true meaning behind her name.

    Samantha has been asking for a dog for years now. Initially I promised her a dog when she turned ten and then when she turned ten I said after the cats pass away – Samantha’s heart broke. So we made an agreement with her that if she cleans the kitty litter, bird cage, Guinea pigs cage, does the dishes proves she can be responsible then we will get her a puppy. Well time went on and Samantha completed her chores never complaining – all she kept saying is she will do anything for a dog. Samantha’s friend showed her a website for dogs needing a home – we reached out to a few people and shelters but none had dogs we wanted or were willing to give puppies to two working FT parents. So, we put together a plan and a good friend offered her services while we were at work. So, we went online spoke to one person who said they could fly the dog to MA within a few hours but she wanted money at first !!!!! I think not. We googled her and plenty of articles online about this lady scamming people out of money. So, Wednesday morning I happened to be looking through Craigslist – I tried Massachusetts, New Hampshire and found nothing that warned my heart. Then I went on Providence Craigslist where there was a picture of two baby golden retrievers – I immediately fell in love with HOPE so I called the seller at: 1 (413) 489-2590 – he gave me his texting addresses so we could chat –
    I called him and he sounded sick – you could tell he had a bad cold. I asked him about the dogs. – he said it was a litter of 8 – he kept one sold the other 6 and he just reposted the ad because the person who was supposed to pick up HOPE backed out. I knew she would be gone quick if I didn’t commit to picking her up. Me being impulsive and falling in love with the dogs pic said we would take her – the owner sent me some pics even let me hear the dogs whining over the phone –

    More pics

    So, Greg and the guy spoke – I didn’t ask details because I figured Greg asked the questions. Also how could we get scammed if Greg saw the dog before giving the money what did we have to lose? So given the guy was sick he suggested meeting Greg in front of the Garden Section of the Chicopee Walmart – he told Greg the name of his car – they met up – Greg fell in love with the dog, handed the guy the money and left.

    Greg came home and everyone immediately fell in love with HOPE! We have her that name because we hoped for a golden retriever for so long and looking at her she seemed perfect!!!!

    I started texting the guy who sold us HOPE about some questions I had – no response. I started getting a bad feeling. I started googling stolen dogs because at first that’s what I wondered since he no longer answered his phone – the Craigslist ad was taken down and I just got a text message voicemail when calling the number. The more I thought about it the more I worried.

    The more time I spent with HOPE the more I noticed things weren’t right – she was walking into things – I said to Greg and Samantha that I felt she was blind – everyone told me I am too negative and paranoid. I question why she doesn’t eat and is lethargic – everyone said new dogs are nervousness the first few days in a new environment and that it takes time for them to warm up. But something didn’t ad up.

    We took HOPE to the vet today and got devastating news. The vet asked if I had concerns. I came right out and asked if she is blind. He did some tests and confirmed my suspicions. HOPE was indeed blind. Now I can handle that and wouldn’t love her any less but they also tested her/ran some tests for Liver Shunts (Portosystemic Shunts –

    And the prognosis is high that she has it. More tests have been run and we will know later this week what type of surgery she will need.

    My heart aches but right now HOPE is the perfect name for her.

    Unfortunately we took Hope to a second vet – results not good it was suggested to put her down. I couldn’t go through with it.

    My husband was agonizing over it and made the decision to bring Hope to Angells Memorial MSPCA – we surrender our rights to her so she could get care we couldn’t afford.

    We are all real sad about this and yes we take full responsibility for buying a dog off crsigslist from a non breeder. But now I have two little girls with broken hearts – a husband and myself that are distraught so we don’t need to hear the lectures as we are paying the price enough.

    Who could be so cruel to pass this dog off without any warning. Thankfully the person who sold us the dog met us in a public place with video surveillance – I’m working with a detective who will be requesting the surveillance tape – hopefully I can get the guys real name and license plate and expose him publicly for what he did. I don’t want anything from this but awareness and for HOPE to live a healthy and happy life.

    We need all the support we can get. Writing this, admitting my lack of decision making skills was hard enough but others should know what we are going through so they don’t find themselves in the same situation. If anyone wants to contribute to her medical bills that would be great otherwise we are not sure we can keep her.

    As for HOPE she will never be loved any less – she was part of our family and love her even if she is no longer ours.

    HOPE is the perfect name!

  2. Barbara Dye says:

    where can i report people selling sick dogs on Craigslist? I need some guidance ASAP. Please help. Thanks Barb Dye

  3. Marie says:


    We purchased a goldendoodle puppy a week ago in a Petco parking lot near Eastvale CA for $1100. We were told it was a girl. 2 days later we took it to the Vet and were told it was a boy and only 5 weeks old. A few days went by and he got violently ill, throwing up and diarrhea non-stop. We spent over $1000 trying to save him. He ended up dying after owning him for just 6 days.


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