The Young Williams Animal Shelter in Knoxville, Tennessee, had only good intentions when it developed the “Furry Friend Sponsorships,” which allow impounded animals to go to new homes free of cost, but the shelter found itself the victim of a ruthless Craigslist scam.
The shelter says a money-making scheme tied to the adopted animals is leading it to change one of its policies, according to WBIR News. The policy involves a program which allows donations to be made to “sponsor” a pet and the shelter then waives adoption costs for the new owner.
"We got lots of animals to adopt, and we have folks willing to help get them adopted," Monica Brown, the shelter director told a WBIR reporter on Friday.
These are donors who believe getting the animals out of the shelter is the only goal, not realizing that a worse fate could be in store—with those animals becoming the victims. scam.
Recently shelter officials discovered that at least three of those sponsored pets, adopted for free, ended up for sale on Craigslist.
"The last couple was pretty blatant in this room that we're interviewing in, taking photos of the animals prior to their adopting being finalized, and posting on Craigslist," Brown added.
In one case, Baker said Young Williams saw one of their animals on Craigslist and called Animal Control and got the pet back to the shelter.
Young Williams shelter isn’t changing its program, Brown said; however, from now on the shelter won't reveal whether an animal is sponsored—making it free of adoption costs-- until the adopter signs a contract.
"The public announcement in the building is not the same. We want people to come and sponsor these animals. It'll be a surprise for the adopter. They have to pick the animal because that's the animal that they want."
Managers say it's the best way to prevent someone from trying to make money by adopting and then selling shelter animals, she said.
Brown told WBIR that in her years in animal services, she's never seen anything like this. "We, as a society, think 'it's owed to us,' and it's so very sad because it's the animals that are suffering."
But giving pets away “free” or offering them as reduced-price “specials” or at “two-for-one” adoption events often devalues them even more than being homeless, some experts say. It merely makes them seem worthless and disposable, and they are more likely to end up back at the shelter, or worse yet, neglected or dumped in the street. They claim that it follows the old adage that a person "doesn’t appreciate what they don’t pay for."
“There is an alarming trend in the ‘No Kill’ animal-sheltering movement that ignores the fact that commitment, a deep sense of responsibility, and respect for the seriousness of adopting a pet are derived from a family or individual carefully considering whether they can afford the increasingly expensive upkeep in the future. They must accept that it is not just about warm-and-fuzzy feelings but can involve inconvenience and sacrifice, and then invest their own money to make it part of their family,” commented a retired manager of a large municipal shelter.
Owning a pet is a privilege, not a right or an entitlement, and it involves a commitment to quality care for the lifetime of the pet, she stated. “If we do not want people to believe it is “owed to them,” then why are we confirming that by giving them away for free?”