The High Price of Free to Good Home
By Linda Kender
We have all seen these "Free to Good Home" ads in the newspaper, posters hung up in the supermarket, or signs along the roadway. What these well meaning and trusting owners are offering for their pets, however, is a potentially deadly outcome. Tragically, these unsuspecting persons too often end up putting these "free" animals into the hands of uncaring, unscrupulous and sometimes violent individuals.
People tend to place a higher value on what they pay for. The very action of pulling out their wallets or their checkbooks to pay even a nominal adoption fee seems to validate the fact that the animal has value . For example, many years ago I found an old beagle left abandoned on the road shortly after the end of rabbit hunting season. By her appearance, this sad eyed but sweet and gentle dog looked to have whelped a good many puppies in her lifetime. I took her to the vet, had her vaccinated and spayed and tried unsuccessfully to give her away. I then placed an ad in the newspaper listing her attributes along with a nominal adoption fee. This time, I received calls from people eager to adopt. She ultimately went to live with a family and lived out the rest of her life as a beloved pet instead of an over-the-hill hunting and breeding machine. It was the same dog, but with a price tag she suddenly was perceived to have value.
Pets which are not perceived to have value tend to be those which are marginally cared for, have a much higher rate of abandonment or shelter surrender, are less likely to be considered part of the family and are more likely to be neglected or abused.
There is no such thing as a "free" pet anyway. People who obtain a "free" pet may not have the financial resources or desire to spend the money necessary to properly care for the pet. Yearly vaccinations, flea, tick and heartworm preventatives and dog food all cost money. If the animal becomes sick or injured treatment by a veterinarian is another expense. While an adoption fee alone does not guarantee that the pet will properly be provided for, it does serve as an indicator of whether or not the adopter is willing to pay money on the pet's behalf.
Unscrupulous people may resell the animals. I wish this was an urban legend but it is not. Some people will supplement their income by seeking out those animals listed as "Free to Good Home". These animals are generally friendly and able to be easily handled. These very attributes make them marketable to research facilities, laboratories and teaching institutions utilizing live animals in teaching, experiments and test trials. These con artists will appear to be personable and say all the "right" things. I have been told of one woman operating in our community who is a registered nurse. She responds to the ad and brings along her developmentally disabled son. She tells the pet owner that she would love to adopt the pet as a companion for her son. She says that she is a home owner with a fenced yard. People can't hand their "free" pets over to her fast enough--sometimes whole litters. She promptly sells them for a profit and starts looking again. By requiring an adoption fee, this knocks the profitability out of the process and people like her will look elsewhere for their victims.
Using live animals as bait for training and/or encouraging aggression in fighting or guarding dogs. Street fighters will often obtain "free" pets to bait or encourage aggression in animals while at the same time feeding their own need to witness violence. This is another case where a nominal adoption fee may mean the difference between life and an unspeakably violent death for the pet.
The following pointers are provided to assist you in finding an appropriate home for your pet or stray you have rescued should the need arise:
Include a nominal adoption fee. A fee of $65--$100 will be an acknowledgment that the animal has value.
Investigate who is adopting your pet. Call his/her veterinarian to see how previous or existing pets are cared for. Ask questions about previous pets and their longevity and living conditions. Do not be shy about this.
Call the landlord if the adopter rents. Rental housing which allows pets is often difficult to find. Make sure that the pet is allowed by contacting the landlord directly--do not just take the adopter's word for it. If the animal is not allowed and is later "discovered" to be living where prohibited, abandonment or surrender to a shelter may be what is in store for your pet.
Provide your phone number and let the adopter know that you are available to assist in the transition to a new home by answering questions or providing information about the pet. If at all possible, let the adopter know that if the placement does not work out that the pet may be returned to you for placement into another home.
Visit where the pet will be living. If possible, deliver the pet yourself. If you do not like what you see do not leave the pet.
Your pet's life and well being rests solely with your ability to place him/her in a safe and humane home. Charge the adoption fee, ask the questions and do the checking. Please do not make your pet pay the high price of "Free to Good Home".
Article printed with permission by Linda Kender