Are Rescues Sending Potential Adopters to Craigslist Breeders?

Our thoughts were provoked by a recent Animal Sheltering headline: “Adopt, Don’t Shop! But only if you’re perfect. Otherwise, don’t even bother trying.”

Inga Fricke, Director of Sheltering Initiatives and Outreach at The Humane Society of the United States, points out that rescue/shelter adoption application requirements have become increasingly stringent. This well-intentioned practice may be leading to good (if imperfect) adopters being turned away  and instead heading to Craigslist or other irresponsible breeding situations to buy a pet, she says.

She writes, “We can scream ‘Adopt’…until the cows come home, but as long as our actions continue to say ‘Go to a breeder,’ we will never achieve what we all claim to be working towards— a good, loving home for every homeless pet.”

Over a decade ago, I brought my Brody home after seeing an ad in a local newspaper: “Puppies. Pit bull mix. $50.” Truthfully I don’t recall whether the word rescue entered my impulsive 22-year-old mind during the search process (“process” used loosely here). I wish I’d known better.

But I’ve often wondered: Would I have even been approved to adopt from a rescue?

At that time, I had just graduated from college. I lived in a tiny apartment without renter’s insurance or my landlord’s permission to get a pet. I had barely any job history. Or money. I had a new-ish boyfriend who planned to share in the dog-ownership gig. And to that now-common application question, “What is your philosophy on dog training?,” I probably would have answered: “I love watching the Dog Whisperer!”

Application status: Do not pass go, do not collect a rescue dog.

But consider this: that newspaper-ad puppy has now enjoyed more than a decade of the doggy American dream. Two square meals, a warm bed, enrichment galore, a mountain of squeaky toys, and a snack-dispensing preschooler.

It goes without saying that countless terrific, tireless rescue and shelter workers have the very  best interests of dogs at heart; each and every pup deserves the best home imaginable. This means there are some fairly intense adoption applications out there. It’s a tough line to toe: Too strict, and good homes are turned away while dogs die in overpopulated shelters. Too lenient, and dogs risk being rehomed into bad circumstances. We at Sidewalk Dog have the utmost respect for the painstaking choices that local rescues make in the service of their animals and adopters.

So check out this thoughtful piece in Animal Sheltering, then tell us: Have you found adoption requirements to be too stringent, or just right? Have you seen good adopters turned away from rescues or is the article too tough on hardworking rescue groups?

Do Rescues Send Potential Adopters to Craigslist Breeders?

Present-day Brody, promoted to drool-catcher in chief.

Next up: Share all of your pup’s adventures with #SidewalkDog for the chance to be featured. Then head to our dog-friendly online communities for super local, pooch-centric chat with the some of the best people we know dog people.

16 thoughts on “Are Rescues Sending Potential Adopters to Craigslist Breeders?

  1. Catherine Hunt

    I am replying to the article on pet rescue groups. I just went through this situation and so I have strong feelings. We went through a month long process to adopt a puppy. We were even told that we could possibly adopt it early (it still had surgery planned) in order to start the bonding process. The last item was the home visit. When the visit was concluded I was told I only had one small fencing item that would need to be addressed. The next day I received an e-mail saying that because of the fence, owning a upper deck and philosophical differences (which was not true) we would not be getting the puppy. I definitely think that while rescue groups have a good heart they are finding reasons not to place animals that can easily be addressed. I have since heard similar stories from several people who also would have provided good homes. We are now left with finding different outlets for a pet. I am skeptical of other rescue groups due to this situation. It is clear that so many animals are taking longer to find the perfect home when they could live happy lives with the applicants that want them so much. The home visit clearly showed we had a good home with other animals that we have rescued and are now thriving.

  2. Sandra McGoldrick-Kendall

    My son, a 21-year old college student, is picking up his Craigslist puppy tomorrow, after nearly a year of trying to adopt a dog from various rescue organizations. The fact is, he will make a devoted, responsible, and loving dog owner. He grew up in a household where rescue dogs were the rule, and I insisted he continue his efforts to adopt, despite the months of onerous applications and arbitrary rejections. No matter that he has a part-time schedule, a stable home with plenty of space for a puppy/dog to play, and a supportive family, who can look after his dog anytime he is not at home. The barriers to adoption take many forms: income requirements, space requirements, references, fenced yard, home visit etc. (I find it ironic that while my son is willing to drive 300 miles to see a dog, the rescue won’t reciprocate to do a required home visit.) So, he resorted to finding a dog on Craigslist, a puppy bred for sale. He likes to believe that this litter was an exception, and that the family selling these puppies will not repeat the breeding. Hmmm…wishful thinking.
    As for me, I only hope that rescues start to realize the role they are playing in this problem.

    1. Denise

      Your son didn’t have to go to Craigslist. Animal Care and Control and The Animal Humane Society would have adopted to him.

      1. Sandra McGoldrick-Kendall

        He tried that multiple times. We live in a remote area of Washington state, with very few local humane societies. The only two within 100 miles have had nearly all dogs that are described as either unfriendly to other dogs, or to cats, or, worst of all, to young children. As a family with a dog, two cats, and a two-year old grandchild, these are unacceptable.

  3. Jacque

    We ended up getting a puppy from Craigslist because of a couple of rejections. First the dog/puppy was for my mom who is older but had already raised 2 dogs. She was fostering first and they just loved her until one of the dogs found a hole in the fence hidden by brush. We discovered it after the second time he got out and fixed it. That was not good enough. Then we applied to several other rescues. We wanted to be preapproved before she met the dogs so thete wouldnt be any heartbreak. A few were excited about her after the home visit but some didn’t even get back to us. One didn’t like our answer that we wouldn’t absolutely commit to formal obedience training (we will if needed). One didn’t like that when my mom lived on a ranch in the mountains the dogs lived in a heated garage and barn – we acknowledged that would never be the case in the city where she lives now. After the last rejection where they gave no reason we looked to Craigslist. She got a very high energy puppy who WILL be going to obedience training. The entire family is involved in taking care of him.

  4. Liz

    I tried a few times to get a rescue dog from a private rescue organization. Twice the application (on line only, no way to save it and return to it later) kicked me out before I could complete it and once I couldn’t stay to finish it. When I printed it out, it was nearly 12 pages long.

    I ended up not adopting on line. Instead I got the first dog and the public humane society. He was an 8 week old puppy (which they don’t have very often so I hit the lottery) and the second dog was an 8 month old puppy I adopted at an adoption event. Even at the adoption event, the application was long, but at least I could talk to the staff and convince them that our fenced 1/3 acre was going to be a great place for the pup to grow up. We went with an 8 month old because they didn’t have young puppies for adoption.

    They are both great dogs and I’m thrilled they’re rescues.

  5. Meg

    Not all rescues are the same…I work with a local rescue that does a pretty extensive vetting process, (references, call local vet, etc.) But we do not have the requirements for every dog that some find discouraging—no rentals, fence requirement, etc.

    Some rescues have stricter requirements for whatever reason, and that is their prerogative. If one rescue doesn’t work for you, there are dozens in the Minneapolis area that can help you out.

    The thing that blows my mind is that even with all of the vetting we do for candidates people STILL return their animals, sometimes after 2 hours, sometimes after a year. Mind you, this is after at least a week of applying, discussion, and meetings.

    Whenever I get frustrated that our process is too in depth and possibly turns applicants away, I think of the times when puppies and awesome dogs were returned for no fault of their own…and worry what goes on in rescues or craigslist/breeding situations where no checking is done.

    I also believe the other reason why so many rescues, especially foster based, have vetting processes is out of courtesy for the fosters. As a foster, I feel better knowing some checks have been done on the family my foster dog is going to. I sometimes have spent countless sleepless nights with this puppy, endless potty clean ups, and lots of love, and need to know that the pup is going to a “good” home. Yes, a good home could maybe be found without a reference check, but it still helps the foster and the rescue to feel like it will be a good placement 🙂 These dogs never leave our hearts or our thoughts, and knowing that we gave them the best shot is the least we can do. It would kill me as a foster to know my little puppy that I had in my bed for two months, now lives outdoors and rarely gets human interaction.

    That being said, I don’t think rescues have to be the right fit for every situation or family. My family came from Wisconsin for a weekend trip and adopted a puppy on the spot at a Petsmart event. Looking back I can’t believe that was allowed, now that I know the process other rescues put people through. BUT, we wanted a puppy, a rescue, and being out of state could not have gone through the process of a traditional rescue, and unfortunately our county did not have a good rescue system at the time.

    My biggest nerve with the whole “anti-rescue” discussion due to vetting, is people use it as an excuse to go to a breeder. I truly feel in the Minneapolis area, if you want a rescue dog, there is no excuse why you can’t find one.

  6. Reece

    Great article, and while there are some great rescues out there with reasonable adoption procedures, we found that they did not think of adoption from the perspective of the adopter. In a few cases, we saw a dog that looked like it might be a fit for us on their web site, and just wanted to ask a few questions about the dog before proceeding with an application (example: does the dog bark a lot, which would have been a non-starter for us living in a condo). In several cases, the rescue organization refused to let us even talk to the foster to answer basic questions like these, and instead they wanted us to fill out an application, provide references, and be subject to a home visit first.

    These procedures at that early stage in the game were silly. The problem was this: we didn’t see any dogs other than the one we were inquiring about that was of interest from that rescue. Therefore, if the dog wasn’t a fit, it would have been a waste of their time and ours to go through an onerous set of procedures just to find out that the dog was not going to be a fit anyway. Surely, they would have made sense had we determined the dog might be a fit. We weren’t even asking to meet the dog, just to get some basic information, which arguably they might have wanted to provide on their web site to potential owners anyway.

    At another rescue, we went to an adoption day and asked if we could walk outside with one of the dogs just to see what they were like in a more natural setting, as the room the event was held in was tiny and packed with dogs and potential adopters. Surprisingly, they said no, giving the rationale that a lot of people were interested in adopting this particular dog and that they didn’t want for it to be away for even 20 minutes. They didn’t seem to understand that as an adopter who would take care of this pup for the rest of their lives, it would be in the best interest of the dog, adopter, and the rescue for the potential adoptive family to see what the dog was like in a natural setting.

    Thankfully, there were quite a few other rescues in our area that were awesome. They provided good information about the dog up front, were happy to answer basic questions before doing an exhaustive reference and home visit, and the good ones were more than happy to let us take the dog out for a walk during adoption events to see what they were like in a more natural setting.

    I understand that rescues are run by volunteers, but it seems like it would be a good experience for the volunteers to learn and understand how good adopter-facing processes help the dog and the rescue.

  7. AJ

    In the last five years, I’ve adopted a rescue from Minneapolis Animal Care and Control and from a local pet rescue organization that I was fostering for. I can vouch that they do have good pets at Animal Control – without all of the hoops to jump and the price is better too. With all of the rules, requirements and the cost of adopting through a rescue, I can see people turning to an easier, less expensive method for obtaining them.

    On the side of the rescues though, I believe in lifetime commitments when it comes to pets and so many other people do not. If someone wants to take the easy route to get a pet, will they also quickly let go of that pet when the going gets tough?

  8. Diane

    I adopted my current K9 partner from CraigsList, but not a breeder. This was approx 6 years ago. I started on PetFinder which seemed to only list rescues plus Humane Society so I thought maybe that was my only avenue. After applying a few times and getting no response back, a rejection without comment or a “this dog has been adopted” –even though the dog was still posted as avail. on PF — I gave up on PF and went directly to the websites of rescues I felt were trustworthy and kept up to date. I didn’t have any better luck there. After applying several times and getting no response or getting rejected, I moved to CraigsList where I found my current dog being given up by an overwhelmed family who couldn’t deal with the wild child of a puppy they’d been given a couple months before (yup, the infamous Christmas puppy gift). All through this process I noticed a few things that I believe rescues need to address, related to this article: #1 An intimidating and impersonal application process. #2 The adoption costs goes up even as the intimidating application forms and process got even more intimidating. #3 No chance to appeal or answer whatever concerns the rescue has about a potential adopter and seemingly no flexibility. #4 Not keeping info on dogs up to date and not keeping a finished application on file so a potential adopter has to go through the same process over and over. I very definitely got the idea that some rescue groups were testing me to see just how badly I wanted a particular dog or maybe how badly they didn’t really want to give up a dog but wanted instead to keep it for ?? reason (hoarding?). I actually confronted a couple of rescues and asked if they were in it for the $$ or to get dogs into loving homes because that’s what it felt like they were doing. Of course the rescues were highly offended and refused any further contact with me. So, my views on rescues went downhill during the entire process and only in the past year have I managed to gain a more positive view of rescues in general.

  9. Mary Nielsen

    This depends a lot from the rescue but I understand what you mean.. Those breeders will sell the dog to anyone, even to the worst people and by helping breeders do their work more and more dogs are forced to suffer the life while in the breeders cages.

    Rescues should have minimal requirements which would allow to any kind loving person to adopt a dog if they have a decent home with a decent income, that way the backyard breeders would take a hit in their “business”.

  10. jade

    I have spent countless hours filling out applications and listing friends as references. I understand that rescues want to make sure that they are putting dogs into responsible homes but it’s ridiculous when some were asking about jobs and income. I’ve had home visits which they even criticized the type of stairs and railings I had. I had driven hours to visit dogs fostered in other states even though it’s a rescue in the Twin Cities area. Some even had me pay to apply for a dog only to be told the dog was already spoken for or was already adopted out. I’ve emailed about 4 different dogs on the first day their profile was up for adoption, only to be told they weren’t available, or there were 20 people ahead of me.
    I ended up adopting from the humane society. They asked me a few questions, took my id, and my adoption fee.

  11. Sara @ BestPetReviews

    I have never adopted or had the thought to adopt so I didn’t know the requirements were that intense. It makes sense though. I hope somehow someone can come up with a better process! Thanks for sharing this info!

  12. Jeff

    When I saw that they wanted 2 references from people who were not my relatives and who did not live with me, and they wanted to do a home inspection I lost all interest in trying to get a rescue dog. That’s just too intrusive into my personal life. So, I turned to Craigslist instead, and got a much cheaper and younger puppy immediately. And she is still living with me and loving life with me, 15 years later. So, yes, the rescue groups are scaring off decent adopters and driving them to Craigslist.

  13. Yexen

    We tried looking for a hypoallergenic dog at a local rescue but found none suitable for kids under 6. I figured why not get it from Craigslist, there’s a lot posted daily anyway. At least we can rescue one puppy that might end up somewhere bad. To make story short, we got the puppy and we got insurance but the thing is on the third day the puppy got sick, we went to an animal ER to get the puppy checked, insurance will take effect the day after and pre-existing condition will not be covered either. At the ER puppy was diagnosed with Parvo and worms, she was given care as the staff said, though I did not see it due to their Covid-19 protocol. She died regardless of care provided, left us with hospital bill debt, stress and broken heart especially my kids. If there could only be rescues that allows flying out of state dogs and stricter protocols for backyard breeding, animals will be protected better. A lot of people are good hearted and with good intentions when adopting but sometimes the hypocrisy of affected entities “rules” made the animals even suffer more.


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