Best Friends Blog

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

Orange tabby kittensA 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.

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Julie Castle
Chief Development, Marketing and Communications Officer
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Brooke Koch

    Thanks for posting this. I recently adopted my goldendoodle Maggie at 8 months old from Craigslist from a family who had unexpected things come up and made them unable to care for her but didn’t want to put her in a shelter. The former owner practiced due diligence by calling my vet, references, and meeting me. We couldn’t be happier with our Maggiedoodle:)

  • Joyce Oxfeld

    I always thought that craigslist was dangerous to advertise pets for adoption, but I guess you really do have to know the right questions to ask the prospective adopter. I am glad you posted this article.

  • HealthyAnimals

    Bravo to you for making adoption a partnership rather than a set of regulations. As a holistic veterinarian of over 30 years, many of my WONDERFUL and caring clients had to lie to adopt dogs locally from shelters as they chose alternatives to conventional flea control, diet, etc. They successfully found pets on craig’s list, newspapers, etc. I collected the shelters who, like you, tried not to discourage adoptions.

  • House of Zen Wellness Rescue

    Besides your survey, what else does Best Friends do to try to assure a good home? So many rescues do home visits, which I’ve never been a big fan of. With the size of Best Friends, do you guys do home visits? Follow throughs?

    • Melissa_BestFriends

      Hi there –

      Thanks for your note. Best Friends employs skilled adoption counselors. These team members know how to ask the right questions to ensure a good match is made, as well as spot any red flags. Our interview process is the same at these events, the sanctuary and our pet adoption centers.

      Best Friends looks at each adoption – both animal and adopter – individually. As stated in our adoption contract, we can perform home visits, though we don’t always feel it’s necessary. All of our animals are microchipped, with the primary contact information on the microchip listed as Best Friends. We follow up with adopters and offer counsel, and all adopters must sign a contract stating that if, for any reason, they can no longer care for the animal, he/she must be returned to Best Friends.

      I hope that this information is helpful. We appreciate everything that you do to help homeless pets.

      Melissa Miller
      Social Media Community Manager

      • House of Zen Wellness Rescue

        Thank you Melissa. Would it be ok to adopt some of BF’s adoption survey into our rescue’s. It’s a great start and would love to use some of it for our rescue.

        • Melissa_BestFriends

          Sure thing! And if you haven’t already, you may want to look into our No More Homeless Pets Network (, as we offer great resources and grant opportunities.

          Thanks for all that you do for the animals!

          Melissa Miller
          Social Media Community Manager

      • Joyce Oxfeld

        Thank you very much Best Friends for clearing that up and stating your case for screening adoptions thoroughly.

    • Joyce Oxfeld

      Home visits would be difficult to do. I wonder how many people can do that? My adoption center , where I volunteer at , is a rescue and they contact landlords, have meet and greets, and call the veterinarian and have a thorough application process.

  • Kathi McDermott

    As an adult, I got my first cat on an impulse over 40 years ago – based on a sign in front of a house advertising free kittens. She was with me for 19 years before she passed. My latest pet, Jack, came from a Craigslist ad. My boyfriend wanted a Golden Retriever, and there was no way he was going to be allowed to buy from a breeder. He started researching and found Jack on Craigslist. The family, who had adopted him from a local shelter, didn’t want him anymore – but they didn’t want to send him back to the shelter environment. We took our other dog with us to meet him, and the family could see that Jack was going to have a good home – for life. Not everyone has bad intentions, and these animals need all the opportunities they can get!

  • Cindy Broenner

    well..I am going to blame craiglist and any other such ad for this mess…so do not tell anyone just who not to blame…