AROUND TWO dozen animal shelters and pet rescue groups in the Bay Area of California are asking a popular online bulletin board to ban postings that advertise certain animals, including Pit Bull Terriers for sale, saying casual transactions encourage backyard breeding and irresponsible adoptions.
Those activities in turn can lead to dangerous situations like the recent pit bull mauling death of a 12-year-old San Francisco boy, representatives of 21 animal welfare agencies said.
Officials of ‘Craigslist’ have said they are considering a change. However, animal advocates, who first wrote to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark in May and have made subsequent pleas, are getting impatient for action.
The request from the 21 agencies is the latest fallout from a recent cluster of dog attacks in California – often ascribed to ‘pit bulls’ which also have led calls for breed specific legislation (BSL) crackdowns at local and state level, on breeds with ‘vicious’ reputations.
Animal advocates led by the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said they have been monitoring Craigslist postings for several months. In February, for example, they found at least 183 un-neutered pit bull puppies for sale – and claim that a few were even described as "human-aggressive".
They believe Craigslist's free classified section is fertile ground for uncertified breeders who are trying to sell pit bull puppies for anywhere from $50 to $2,000 with no accountability for how they've bred the dogs or who they sell the pups to.
"It's sloppy breeding," said Donna Reynolds, founder of the advocacy group BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls). "They are not creating dogs from the best breeding stocks with the best health and best temperament in mind."
Reynolds said such breeders often breed for looks, creating dogs such as the so-called blue pit bulls with smoky grey coats that are so popular now and fetch the highest price. Reynolds pointed out that it was a blue that attacked an 8-year-old Santa Rosa girl last month.
"Backyard breeding certainly existed long before Craig, but he's brought down the barrier of entry to where anyone can (advertise) for free, and it's ha ving tragic results," said East Bay SPCA spokeswoman Kirsten Park.
Backyard breeding can be tragic for dogs as well as humans, Park said. People who end up with difficult dogs often abandon them or drop them off at the shelter, where they may be euthanised.
Many area shelters have more pit bull type dogs than other breeds. In Berkeley, they account for as much as 90 percent of the shelter population.
Craigslist Chief Executive Officer Jim Buckmaster said the community bulletin board, which began in San Francisco and has spread to 170 cities, is run by just 18 employees and gets 5 million new classified ads every month.
"It's physically impossible for us to monitor all listings," Buckmaster said.
Craigslist is, however, considering directing viewers of its pet classifieds to Web pages on the humane treatment of animals.
Craigslist does ban sales or other transactions involving illegal animals, such as endangered species. EBay, the world’s most popular online marketplace is much more tightly regulated and does not allow animal sales on its site.
Bay Area shelters suggested Craigslist change its Web site so posters who are advertising a dog, cat or rabbit are automatically shown another screen. That page would read, "Craigslist does not allow the retail sale of pets, only the adoption or rehoming of pets. All cats, dogs and rabbits must be spayed or neutered before being rehomed," according to a written request from the agencies. The agencies also suggested that Craigslist users who indicate they want to advertise their pet as a breeder (male or female) not be provided a screen to write their post.
Concern about over breeding is especially strong in San Francisco, where more than 700 of the 12,000 registered dogs are said to be American Pit Bull Terriers, or crossbreds where "pit bull" is listed as the primary breed. City officials estimate only 1 in 10 dogs in the city is licensed.
Carl Friedman, director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control, who has called for changes on Craigslist, said he'd like to see a way for breeders to register within their communities and receive an identification number. They could then list that number on their advertisements, whether on Craigslist or in newspapers, to help buyers identify responsible breeders.
Attempts by local media to interview pit bull breeders with current ads on Craigslist to get their opinions about the controversy were unsuccessful.