PETA and AALAS have been kind enough to provide the following perspectives on this controversial subject:
1. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) [www.peta.org]
We are writing in regards to the "free to good home" advertisements that appear on the Craigslist website.
As you may be aware, animals given away for free can, and unfortunately often do, meet gruesome fates. They can end up in the hands of animal abusers like Barry Herbeck, a Wisconsin man who was convicted last year of torturing and killing animals he obtained through "free to good home" ads. He confessed to taking his kids with him when responding to the ads so people would be comfortable turning animals over to him. People known as "bunchers," who obtain animals illegally from random sources to sell to research facilities for profit, often acquire animals by answering "free to good home" ads. Small animals advertised as "free to good home" are sometimes acquired by individuals who intend to use them as bait in training other animals to fight. Gerbils, hamsters, and young kittens are often acquired to be used as snake food.
Animal protection organizations all over the United States work diligently to educate people about the proper procedure for placing animals and frequently assist people in finding good homes for their animals. We routinely contact individuals who place "free to good home" advertisements to alert them to the potential perils for their animals and continuously receive appreciative calls from people who say they never knew these dangers existed.
Craigslist could do its readers and the animals a great service, while setting a very progressive example, by posting a brief warning at the top of the pets section about giving animals away for free. To supplement the warning people could be informed that they can contact us for more information about placing animals and screening potential adopters.
2. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) [www.aalas.org]
What assurances exist that stolen or lost pets are not used in research?
While some research requires that dogs and cats are used, the vast majority of laboratory animals are rodents specifically bred for research. Nearly half of the dogs and cats needed for research are also bred for that purpose. Since state laws and local policies prevent many animal pounds and shelters from providing dogs and cats to research facilities, animal dealers are the primary source for the other half of the animals scientists require. These dealers must be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and must adhere to Animal Welfare Act standards of care. Both dealers and research facilities can obtain dogs and cats only from specified sources and must comply with detailed record-keeping and waiting-period requirements. In addition, USDA conducts unannounced inspections of dealers and research facilities for compliance to help ensure research animals are not missing pets.