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.