Dont blame Craigslist or any other marketing channel for adoptions gone wrong

A number of posts deriding Craigslist as an unsafe venue for adoption promotions have crossed my screen recently. These tend to bubble up following an expose of some animal abuser who adopted a dog or cat via a Craigslist ad.

The sky isn’t falling.

Such anger and distress is misplaced. Craigslist, like Petfinder, Facebook or your local newspaper, is simply a megaphone to reach more people. Sixty million Americans access Craigslist every single day, looking for everything from jobs to new couches, and yes, pets. There is nothing inherently good or bad about Craigslist or other easy-access mass marketing tools.

People come to rescue groups and shelters to adopt a pet via every imaginable route, including driving by an adoption event happening on a street corner, passing by an animal shelter, word of mouth, an email referral, Petfinder and other websites, including Craigslist. Someone with bad intentions can as easily come to a rescue group or shelter via a conversation at a dog park as they can via Craigslist.

Everyone knows that there are sick people out there looking to do harm to both people and animals. It’s a fact of life, and in the world of animal rescue we need to be mindful of this, but it makes no sense to tone down our outreach for fear that a louder voice promoting adoption will attract the attention of a crazy. The ad absurdum extension of such thinking is that we only adopt to people that we know well. In the extreme, this type of risk aversion leads to a hoarding mentality.

We need to balance our caution with the knowledge that millions of animals are being killed in shelters and they need rescue groups to make room for them by expanding adoption opportunities, not shutting some down.

Best Friends has worked hard over the years to refine our adoptions process. Our goal, naturally, is a safe, forever home for every animal in our care. We realized years ago that slowing down the process with hurdles supposedly intended to ensure a quality adoption didn’t improve return rates. However, we did adopt out fewer animals — which in turn meant that fewer dogs and cats could enter our programs.

Check out the “adoption survey” we’re currently using, with great success, in Los Angeles. Unlike far too many adoption applications, it’s not meant to disqualify potential adopters through questions such as “Do you have a fenced-in yard?” Instead, it’s a conversation starter, a low barrier for the adopter that’s meant to help the adoption counselor find a match, with the goal that all parties have a full understanding of their responsibilities.

We’re in a competition each and every day with breeders, pet stores and online pet sellers. It’s a marketing war aimed at consumers who are making decisions about where to acquire a pet. They’ve got lots of options other than rescue groups and shelters, so it makes no sense to dump a resource such as Craigslist for fear of the Bogeyman.

Together, we will Save Them All.

Julie Castle with Sunny the dog
Julie Castle
Best Friends Animal Society