Nearly two dozen Bay Area shelters and pet rescue groups
are asking the popular Craigslist online bulletin board to ban postings
that advertise certain animals 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 San Francisco boy, representatives of 21
Craigslist officials have said they are considering a
change. But animal advocates, who first wrote to founder Craig Newmark in
May and have made subsequent pleas, are getting impatient. The request
from the 21 agencies is the latest fallout from a recent cluster of pit
bull maulings, which also have spawned calls for local and state
crackdowns 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 unneutered pit bull puppies for sale -- and 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
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 smokey grey coats that are so popular
now and fetch the highest dollar. 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 having tragic results," said East Bay SPCA spokeswoman
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 euthanized. Many
area shelters have more pit bulls 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 the
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, a more tightly regulated online
marketplace, 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
Craiglist 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 overbreeding is especially strong in San
Francisco, where more than 700 of the 12,000 registered dogs are American
pit bull terriers, pit bulls or mixes where "pit bull" is listed as the
primary breed. City officials estimate only 1 in 10 dogs in the city is
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 to interview pit bull breeders
with current ads on Craigslist to get their opinions about the controversy
Ilene Lelchuk, Chronicle Staff Writer
E-mail Ilene Lelchuk at
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