Monday, June 24, 2024

ANIMALS 101 – “FREE TO GOOD HOME” ADS ARE ANIMAL RUSSIAN ROULETTE

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THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF GIVING ANIMALS AWAY FOR FREE

In the world of animal welfare and pet ownership, there exists a “well-intentioned” but often overlooked practice that can lead to unforeseen consequences for our furry companions and the humans who open their homes to them. It’s the act of giving animals away for free, a seemingly generous gesture that, more often than not, conceals a host of concerns and challenges. While the intention behind such acts may be “innocent”, the reality is far more complex. When you give animals away for free or sell them to strangers, you play Russian Roulette with the lives of sentient beings.

Facebook doesn’t allow the selling of animals on their platform, but unfortunately, they don’t seem to have a problem with free animals.  There is a local group that promotes free animals.  Most of us in animal welfare get blocked there.  When I recently engaged with one of their admins via messenger, asking if they understood what they were doing, this individual responded with: “People want to sell them, and she is just keeping order in the group and being an admin.”  She also has the mentality that if it is not against the law so, it is acceptable.  Something doesn’t have to be illegal to be immoral, dangerous or unethical.

In this article, we delve into the hidden pitfalls of giving animals away without a “price tag”. Your intentions might be considered well-meaning, but here we will share some reasons why anyone who actually cares should seriously reconsider “free to good home” ads!

free to good home

NOT A GOOD HOME, BUT A GOOD PLACEMENT

Our biggest challenge in an overwhelmed animal welfare system is the massive overpopulation crisis fuelled by irresponsible owners, breeders, pet shops that sell animals, those who give them away for free to strangers, and those who support these practices. There are not enough homes for every domestic animal and that is why we so fiercely advocate for spay and neutering.  

So, if there are not enough homes, how many good homes do you think there are? What do you consider a good home?

Sadly, a “good home” means very little in today’s society. What people don’t seem to understand, is that whether they sell, buy, give an animal away for free, or adopt, it is never just about a good home, but about a good placement for that animal. The needs of the animal should come first, always! Paying for an animal or having a big yard and money is no guarantee that they will be taken care of and loved as they deserve.

How can you guarantee it is a good home? Do you really know what we consider a good home? You most likely can’t because you are not trained to do this. Animal rescuers can share hundreds of stories about this that ended up in horror situations for those animals.

SOME REASONS WHY “FREE TO GOOD HOME” ADS ARE DANGEROUS

From the lack of screening and financial considerations to the risk of exploitation and the consequences of insufficient education, we will shed light on the concerns that surround the practice of giving animals away for free. By examining these issues, we aim to encourage a more thoughtful and responsible approach like pet adoption, one that prioritizes the welfare of animals and ensures that their new homes are loving, safe, and prepared to meet their unique needs.

Giving animals away for free can raise several concerns, both for the welfare of the animals and the people involved. Some of the main concerns include:

  1. OVERPOPULATION

Giving animals away for free contributes to pet overpopulation, well more than contributes….it fuels it. In SA on a daily basis an average of 2800 (yes two zeros and yes daily) healthy animals are humanely killed because there are just not enough homes.  Without responsible breeding practices and adoption fees, there may be less incentive for people to spay/neuter their pets, leading to more unwanted litters. How many of the free animals do you think are sterilized? Usually only a few exceptions and this just continues the cycle.

2. LACK OF SCREENING

When animals are given away for free, there is often minimal or no screening of potential owners. This can lead to animals being placed in homes where they may not receive proper care, or attention, or even be subjected to abuse.

Those who failed the adoption process are on the list too. Some people could not get animals through reputable shelters, so now they troll these “free to good home” posts. There is a reason that shelters reject some people, whom those who do not work in animal welfare, would consider “good homes”. So, chances are high that someone who asks for animals online, free or to buy, might have been rejected by reputable organizations already.

If these animals are not re-homed properly with home checks and sterilization, through the SPCA or reputable animal welfare organizations, these animals, countless times, end up in the wrong hands!

3. RISK OF EXPLOITATION

Free animals can be attractive to individuals who may not have the best intentions. Some people may acquire free animals with the intention of:

  • Reselling them for profit.

There are speculators which means the person can make a pure profit by selling these animals instead of having to care for mothers and litters. They collect the “free to good home” or buy litters only after they have found buyers.

These “free to good home” animals are targets for animal dealers too. They take these animals and also sell them for profit. They can be sold to other people as pets, to breeders, puppy mills, for animal trades like skin or for racing, as security animals, and to laboratories for animal testing to mention a few. Some call them “flippers”. Trailers full of dogs and other animals are found at borders and other places by authorities. 

  • Using them for illegal purposes.

Dog fighters may take the power breeds to use in fights and bait dogs (other breeds and species including cats) can easily be obtained through these adverts and used in fights too. Bait animals are used for sparring and building up aggression of the pedigree or power breed, like a pre-show for the main event. Some take these animals to abuse them, to rape them, to offer them as sacrifices (yes, we have witches that live in our community).

  • Used as food. In some cases, these animals are used as food for humans and other animals.

Animal dealers troll these ads too and are “experts” when it comes to fooling most. They pretend to care for the animals in front of you and if you are not trained to spot them, like those who work in animal welfare, you will be fooled and an animal will pay the price. There are literally animal brokers who will meet you at a different house or even have a fake Facebook profile where it looks like they love animals.

4. FINANCIAL CAPABILITY

Owning a pet comes with various expenses, including food, veterinary care, grooming, and more. If someone cannot afford to adopt a pet, they may struggle to provide for the animal’s needs, potentially leading to neglect or abandonment.

5. LACK OF COMMITMENT

People who acquire pets for free may not be as committed to their care as those who invest time and money for adoption, not that it is a guarantee either. This can result in impulsive buying, with some owners giving up on the animal when they no longer want the responsibility.

6. HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS

Free animals may not have received necessary vaccinations, veterinary care, or proper socialization. This can lead to health and behavioural problems for the animal and potential risks to other pets and humans in the community.

7. LACK OF EDUCATION

When animals are given away without any educational resources or support, new owners may not have the knowledge and skills needed to care for the pet properly. This can result in behaviour problems and animal suffering.

To address these concerns, many animal welfare organizations and shelters charge adoption fees and conduct thorough screening processes to ensure that animals are placed in responsible, loving homes. These fees help cover the costs of care and can act as a barrier to impulsive or ill-prepared adopters, ensuring a better quality of life for the animals. Additionally, providing educational resources and support to new pet owners can help ensure the well-being of the animals and reduce the risk of abandonment or neglect.

WHERE DOES “FREE TO GOOD HOME” STOCK COME FROM?

Free to good home “stock” usually comes from backyard breeders, irresponsible owners, or those who do not want animals anymore because it is inconvenient for them. Someone in a difficult situation, the very few exceptions, will do re-homing through a responsible organization.

free animals

Also, read about prisoners for profit.

NO ANIMAL IS ACTUALLY FREE

The “buying price” is but a small expense compared to their care by a responsible pet guardian (owner).  Usually, the veterinary bill for first vaccinations, de-worming, tick and flea treatment, and sterilization will fall on the new owner and this will remain an expense during the animal’s lifespan. If you are at all a responsible pet owner you will need to pay for sterilization as well as spend on proper food, toys, and shelter in addition to securing your yard properly. All this will easily be more than R2000! Do you think someone who asks for free animals will do the above? Can you guarantee they will?

Yes, we don’t support selling and yes, we don’t support “free to good home”, so what do we support?  ADOPT DON’T SHOP! Adoption from reputable organizations is the only kind of “trading” of animals we support and the only ethical option.  These organizations will do an adoption application, home check, sterilization, adoption contract, and follow-ups.  That’s responsible. Note that there are registered organizations that do not do this. Don’t support them!

Responsible adoption practices are essential for the well-being of our beloved pets. The complexities of pet ownership demand careful consideration, commitment, and financial responsibility. The fact remains that millions of animals are euthanized annually because there are just not enough homes for all the animals and even far fewer good homes.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  • Educate your friends and family on this topic and share our posts.
  • Report any such post on the social media platform and to your local welfare organizations. Facebook doesn’t allow the selling of animals, so report it too.
  • Spay and neuter your animals and don’t give them away for free (nor sell them).
  • Rehome your pets through reputable organizations if you can’t take care of them.
  • Please stop supporting the “free to good home” ads. 
  • Stop supporting breeders, pet shops, and animal dealers.
  • Stop being mad at shelters and start blaming breeders (of any kind), irresponsible pet owners, and every single person who gives animals away for free as if they are objects and not sentient beings.
  • Adopt don’t shop.  Adoption is the only ethical option!

Are you willing to take these risks with an animal’s life? If these people really cared about these animals, they would let them be adopted through a responsible organization because irresponsible homing hurts animals.

The act of giving animals away for free, while maybe well-intentioned, can lead to a myriad of problems that impact the welfare of both animals and humans. Let us strive for a future where the act of giving animals away for free is replaced by a culture of responsible and compassionate pet adoption. In doing so, we can create a world where every animal enjoys the love, security, and respect it truly deserves. By uniting our efforts, we can pave the way for a brighter and more humane future for pets and their human companions alike.

Next week we will look at a cat “problem” many complain about on social media.

WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER!