When people can no longer care for a pet, or if their pets have had babies that they cannot care for, many people opt to place an ad in a newspaper or website advertising the unwanted animals as "free to a good home". While intentions are usually good in these situations, we strongly advise against this approach. "Free" is all too often seen as "worthless" in the eye of the beholder.

Pets obtained for free are are less likely to be spayed or neutered by their new owners (why bother with vet bills?), and more likely to be abused and/or discarded, because "there are plenty more where that came from!"

A recent study at one animal shelter yielded the startling statistic that 41% of all owner-surrendered dogs had been obtained "Free to good home."

This is how some people see your "free" loved one:

  • Free snake food.
  • Free animal for malicious pranks.
  • Free animal to set on fire or insert a firecracker into.
  • Free to breed indiscriminately.
  • Free animal to hoard and neglect.

    What Is A "Buncher?"
    A buncher either steals or "adopts" companion animals for the purpose of selling the animal. Bunchers can sell animals for one or more of the following reasons:

  • To be used in research labs
  • To be used as bait to train dogs in fighting rings or hunting dogs
  • To be used as breeding stock in puppy or kitten mills

    "Bunchers" can be very deceptive and they prey on people who place "free to good home" ads. They will sometimes use children as part of the ploy and present themselves as a "perfect" family. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

    What Are the Alternatives?

    A more responsible way to handle pets you cannot care for is to take them to a local animal shelter or rescue group. Shelters (and many rescue groups) will ensure that the animals are properly vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and placed in a responsible home where the animals will be cared for properly. When contacing a shelter or rescue group, find out if they do home checks. While home-checks are not standard policy for all facilities, try to place the animals with facilities that will do a home check.

    If the pet was bought from a responsible breeder, the pet owner should contact the breeder, because he/she will take back the pet. If animal was not obtained from a responsible breeder, but is of a particular breed, contact the appropriate breed rescue organization.

    Visit the websites below to find a shelter or rescue near you:

  • Petfinder
  • Pets911
  • 1-800-Save-A-Pet
  • Yahoo Directory
  • World Animal Net
  • Adopt An Animal Canada for Canadian residents

    If you are concerned about whether or not your pet may be euthanised if released to a shelter, you can simply contact the shelter and find out whether or not they are a "no-kill" facility.

    What To Do If You Must Give Your Pet Away

    If you absolutely must place the animal yourself, please be sure to read the HSUS Guidelines For Finding a Responsible Home For Your Pet to learn ways you can help ensure the person you are releasing your animal to is truly willing and capable of caring for your pet, and be sure to use the animal cruelty database to check for prior convictions of animal cruelty.

    Helpful Tips

    • Don't advertise "Free pet"
    • Spay/neuter the animal to avoid attracting backyard breeders or puppy mill operators
    • Charge at least $25 to discourage resale of pets to labs and others
    • Ask each prospective owner for his/her veterinarian's name as a reference and check it.
    • Ask for identification in the form of a photo I.D. Write down the information, or scan/photocopy it if possible
    • Ask for a phone number and explain that you'd like to check on how the animal's doing. An honest person will gladly share the information with you.
    • Have the person sign an "adoption" contract concerning your pet stating that they will not go to research. Having this in writing gives you legal recourse.
    • Ask to visit the place where your pet will live before your release the pet to the new owner.

    Don't assume because someone brings their wife or children that they are honest and will give your pet a good home. There are documented case in which "brokers" brought their children with them when collecting animals so that they would look "legitimate".

    If time is of the essence and you must leave your pet, please take it to a reputable public or private shelter rather than give it away free to someone you don't know anything about.

    Unlike selling a used care or appliance, finding a home for your beloved pet is an emotional as well as practical experience. If you act with your heart and avoid acting in haste, you'll be headed in the right direction.

    What To Do If You See A "Free To Good Home" Ad

    Whether it is in a newspaper or on the Internet, please take a moment and contact the person who is running the ad. Let them know about the dangers of "Free To Good Home" ads and tell them to proceed very carefully with the adoption, including copying identification (driver's license), checking references, performing a home check before the adoption, using a signed application and contract, and doing follow-ups. Do not feel embarrassed to contact the person who posted the ad. Many people are grateful that you took the time to inform them of dangers they were unaware of.

    If the ad you found was on the Internet, contact the site owner to request that they disallow the posting of ads for free animals on their site. Also contact your local newspaper and ask them to run a warning about placing "Free To Good Home" ads. Visit HelpingAnimals.Com to view a sample letter.