All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

The Dangers of "Free to Good Home"

Dear Marie:
I don’t know if you've ever addressed this issue in one of your past columns; but could you possibly mention all the bad things that can happen to animals given away via “free to god home” ads. I see so much of this and I think people just don’t know. Please help get the word out.

Dear Kathy,
Thank you for the suggestion. You are absolutely right. There are numerous, serious problems associated with giving pets away “free” to strangers. The key word here is “free.”

When pets are given away, there goes along an implied statement that the animals have no worth. Often, recipients of free pets retain the notion that their pets have no value and therefore give them up easily or abandon them at a later date. It is no secret that a disgracefully high number of animals are abandoned or given up every year. Because the lives of dogs and cats are increasingly devalued, companion animals have become disposable items.

One of the saddest statistics I've heard is that the average pet has two to three owners in its life. But this problem is the least of my worries when I see animals being given away. A much more loathsome fate awaits many “free to good home” pets.

Unscrupulous people who round up and sell family pets to research facilities pose as model pet owners who offer to adopt free puppies, kittens and adult animals. They scan news paper ads and frequently offer to take whole litters. The term “bunchers” has been applied to these heartless con-artists.

Another growing problem relates to dog fighting. Pitbull trainers collect docile family pets that cannot possibly defend themselves against the fighters. The pitbulls make short order of these helpless creatures. Trainers use “free to good home” pets in this manner to boost the confidence of their fighting dogs. The fighters are encouraged to attack and kill kittens, puppies and even adult dogs. Dog fighting is illegal; but unfortunately is broadening in its popularity in Southern California and Nationwide.

What can be done to stop the exploitation and abuse of “free to good home” pets? First and foremost...spay and neuter! Most of the companion animals offered up as “free to good home” are puppies and kittens. If their parents were spayed or neutered in the first place, a major portion of the supply of animals that end up with these horrible fates would be significantly reduced.

Second...if you must give away your family pet, collect a monetary price. Give your companion animal some value so that it will be cherished. Don’t be shy about checking up on the person or persons who want to adopt. Ask for identification. Conduct a home check to make sure they live where they say they live. Ask for references and talk to their neighbors. If you have any doubt that they are not suitable owners, wait for someone else. Your pet is depending on you to ensure its well being.

Finally, reconsider your decision to give up your pet. Adoption of companion animals is supposed to be a lifetime commitment. It should not be entered into lightly. Animals are NOT disposable items. Once taken into a home, they are family members and should be treated accordingly. Remember, they form attachments and have strong feelings.  Being separated from the family and home they love is nothing short of a nightmare.

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