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Buying Puppies on Craigslist? Don't Make this Mistake

By Mawoo Pets · 10 Jan · 8 mins read
Buying Puppies on Craigslist? Don't Make this Mistake

The search for a new pet, whether it’s a puppy or a zebra finch, is always an exciting time. Sometimes, it can be tempting to rush the process and choose the first cute little doggy you find on the internet—but that’s not always a good idea. 

If you are thinking about buying a puppy from Craigslist, you may want to think again. Here's why buying puppies on Craigslist isn’t as good a deal as it seems—and what you should do instead.

Why Is Buying a Puppy from Craigslist a Bad Idea?

puppy behind bars at puppy mill

Shopping on Craigslist for used furniture, free appliances and collectibles can be a fun way to furnish a new home or find rare items—but it’s not a good place to find a pet. The cute puppies sold on Craigslist and other general online marketplaces aren’t necessarily coming from the best breeders and vendors, and there’s usually no way to tell the good options from the not-so-good. Worse, when people buy dogs and other pets via a Craigslist posting, their purchases can support unethical breeders. 

When choosing a pet, it’s important to do so from reputable breeders who know how to care for their animals. Backyard breeders may or may not have good intentions, and without the resources and know-how to provide a good environment, medical care and training, puppies can suffer. 

It is not uncommon for puppies to endure poor living conditions, malnourishment, and in the worst cases, animal cruelty.

Puppy Scams Are Common On Craigslist

There’s a simple reason why shopping for pets on Craigslist can be a bad idea: There’s no vetting process. Nobody from Craigslist corporate visits a breeding facility or asks for medical papers when someone decides to list a dog for sale, which means literally anyone can sell one. 

Listings are sometimes made for stolen dogs or sick puppies, which no animal lover wants to support. In many cases, a puppy's profile pic is just taken from a Google image search or a legitimate site to create a fake listing.

Technically, Craigslist has banned the sale of animals on its pages, but backyard breeders have found a way to continue sales anyway. Since the website does allow the rehoming of animals, vendors can still list their puppies in the free community listings and arrange for payment later.

To safeguard animals from being picked up for free and used in nefarious ways such as dog fight trainees, bait, or reptile food, Craigslist allows animals to be rehomed on its site for a small fee. Since the fee is negotiable, puppy breeders use it to sell their dogs online almost as easily as if they’d been allowed to do so in the first place. 

To avoid any iffy situations, its best to steer clear of pet sales via online forums and classifieds. It's simply not safe to buy a pet from these sources. 

Reputable Breeders Have No Reason to List Puppies on Craigslist

Experienced, ethical dog breeders work hard to please their customers and develop a network of positive feedback. They are reliant on word of mouth for advertising, and listing their dogs for sale on Craigslist does nothing to improve or maintain their reputation. 

Good breeders spend a lot of time and money caring for their dogs and puppies, and they aren't looking for a quick, question-free sale. They want good homes for their animals, not just cash.

Sale ads for dogs, cats and other pets on internet classifieds are easy to post, relatively rule-free, and mostly the domain of puppy breeders who haven’t built a trusted business. To buy a healthy puppy from an ethical breeder, look for businesses and breeders with a good reputation and positive reviews. 

Take care not to buy from, or otherwise support, a puppy mill, for the good of all the dogs involved!

Backyard breeders advertising their pitbull puppies for sale.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Puppy from Craigslist

People who care about the dogs they sell are open to questions from potential customers, so don’t be afraid to reach out for information. Ask questions before buying a puppy and take the opportunity to get to know the vendor and make sure the breeding facilities are up to par.

Can I Meet the Puppy In-Person?

Once you've found a puppy you'd like to potentially bring home, ask to meet the puppy in person. If possible, also ask to meet its parents and other family members. When you meet a dog’s parents, you’ll see two very good examples of what a puppy might be like as an adult. Good-tempered, healthy adult dogs make the healthiest puppies, which is exactly what you should be looking for.

It's also a great idea to ask to meet a breeder in person to get to know them a little better. Watch how a dog seller interacts with animals and talks about the dogs in their care to get an idea of how they run their business. 

If they don’t have the time to meet up, and aren’t willing to speak on the phone or answer questions about their dogs, consider their business suspicious. If you aren’t sure how to choose a dog breeder, read our guide on the difference between responsible breeders and unethical breeders.

Even if you live far away from a breeding facility, someone should be able to talk to you on the phone, message you via text, or schedule a video chat. You might also be able to see your potential new puppy via video, and its littermates. Pay attention to the body language of any dogs you do see on camera, and don't hesitate to call out red flags like undersized crates or dirty surroundings. If things seem particularly bad, you should call your state SPCA or provincial RSPCA and have them look into that facility officially.

Has the Puppy Been Socialized?

Socialization is the process of introducing a puppy to other dogs, pets and people. The first socialization happens between a puppy and its mother and siblings, and soon afterwards, with trainers, owners and other pets. Spending time with other animals and people helps puppies learn not to be afraid or overly aggressive when in the company of other creatures, including humans. It also helps them learn to deal with crowds, traffic, public noise, and other daily assaults on the senses.

Ask for specifics when talking about puppy socialization, to get a bigger picture of what kind of social experiences a potential new dog has had. If you plan to share your home with several pets, or different kinds of pets, it’s very important to socialize new pets as soon as possible. This is especially important when adding a dog whose breeding and family history includes some aggression and anti-social behaviour.

Does the Puppy Come with a Health Guarantee?

A health guarantee is usually part of the contract you will be asked to sign by a good breeder when buying a puppy. As part of your purchase, a breeder should include a guarantee that your puppy has been declared healthy by a veterinarian, and that it has received all necessary medical attention—including vaccinations—before going home with you.

The money you spend on a new puppy should include the first round of vaccinations, vet check-ups, and the health certificate/guarantee signed by a trusted veterinarian. This document should allow you to request a refund for the cost of your puppy, or a replacement dog, should something unfortunate happen with its health within the first year or two.

What Does the Contract Cover?

Most sales of purebred puppies include a contract, so be wary if there’s no written agreement necessary to buy from any vendor. Ask vendors about any paperwork you might have to sign if you buy a puppy from them, and go over each line of a contract to make sure you understand it. The purpose of puppy buying contracts is to make sure the puppy is healthy, properly trained, and that you will provide it with everything it needs.

Different breeds of dog have different basic personality traits, health issues, and training needs. For those reasons, breed identification is an important aspect of a pure breed puppy purchasing contract. Knowing as much as possible about your dog's genetic disposition should prevent surprising health or behavioural news down the road.

Better Alternatives to Buying Puppies on Craigslist

breeder kissing puppies

Craigslist might seem like the quickest and simplest way to buy a dog, but there are better and more satisfying ways to find your new puppy without worrying about ethical issues. If you’re worried about Craigslist puppy scams but feeling a bit lost about where to look to find your new best furry friend, try out the following options.

Networking with Friends

Do your friends have dogs that came from great breeding facilities? Talk to them! One of the best resources for a potential new dog owner is friends and family who have already gone through the process of finding and buying a purebred dog. Ask for recommendations for breeders and vendors, and start your search there.

Local Breeders

You may live in an area with one or more professional dog breeders nearby—if so, call them up and ask to have a look at the facilities. It’s a great way to support local breeders and take a really in-depth tour of the dogs’ environment. There’s no better way to get to know the quality of a breeder, facility and dogs than to get up close and personal. 

Good local breeders will ask you just as many questions as you will ask them because they want to be sure their puppies are going to a good home. They may want to visit your home, check your references, and do their homework to make sure you'll make a great dog mom or dad. Interested breeders are a sign of good business practices!

Adopt a Dog from a Shelter

Most towns and cities have at least one animal shelter where you can find dogs, cats, and sometimes other kinds of homeless pets. Each animal’s story is different, and in most cases, totally unknown. Lost pets, unwanted puppies and kittens, pets abandoned by a previous owner, and street animals all can be found at animal shelters. Even pets with a loving family can have an accidental litter of puppies or kittens, which often ends up at the RSPCA.

Rescued and abandoned pets can have very different personalities from one to the next. Rescue groups do their best to socialize homeless pets and get them healthy, but many remain shy or antisocial with other animals and need special training and care. Visit your nearest shelter to meet the furry residents and give one a potentially life-saving chance!

Reputable Online Vendors

There’s no rule against shopping for a dog or pet online! In fact, you can search for local breeders, international breeders and multinational vendors on Google or any internet browser. Mawoo Pets is one of the highly-rated purebred puppy vendors online that connects customers from all over Canada and the United States to wonderful, fully-vetted dog breeders.

You can check our reputation at the Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, and several other customer review sites. To learn more about us, please read testimonials from our happy puppy-buying customers

You can also browse puppies by a specific breed, from French Bulldog to Yorkshire Terrier to Cane Corso. Finding the right breed can be an important in choosing a companion that matches your lifestyle.  

Adopting a Dog from Craigslist

If you’re comfortable rehoming a dog or adopting a rescued pet, you may be able to do so on Craigslist, where puppies can be advertised for free near you. Saving a needy dog, cat or other domestic animal and giving it a home is an amazing thing to do! Keep an eye on fees and make sure any payments you make go to a rescue organization, shelter or veterinary clinic. Adoption fees from private rescuers should be minimal, as they are in place only to prevent the exploitation of free pets.

Read our guide on safely buying a puppy online for top tips on avoiding puppy mills, and learn the best way to find the highest quality dog breeders out there.

Are you ready to meet a new puppy and bring it home ASAP? Check out our available puppies right now to find your special furry friend! You can search for specific breeds like French Bulldogs, Goldendoodles, and Yorkshire Terriers

If you’d like to find out which dog breed suits you and your lifestyle the best, take our Dog Breed Quiz for our best recommendations.


Can I find free puppies near me on Craigslist?

Yes you can, but we recommend exercising plenty of caution. Why are these pups being given away for free? Have they been checked by a veterinarian? Verify the legitimacy of the offer and ensure the puppies are healthy and come from a good environment. It’s always a good idea to check with your local shelter or rescue for adoption instead, or to purchase from a reputable breeder.

Is it safe to buy puppies on Craigslist in major cities like Houston or Dallas?

Puppies are more commonly advertised on Craigslist in major cities like Houston, Dallas, or Phoenix. If you are making such a purchase, always meet the seller in a public place and consider bringing a knowledgeable friend or a vet for advice.

What should I look out for when viewing Craigslist pets ads?

When browsing pets ads on Craigslist, be wary of scams. Look for ads with detailed information and ask for veterinary records or proof of vaccinations. We’ve discussed signs of puppy scams in detail on our blog and how to spot and avoid risks.

What are the red flags to watch out for in Craigslist pet classifieds?

Red flags include vague descriptions, extremely low (or free) prices, requests for upfront payment, and the seller’s refusal to meet in person or provide health documentation to you.

How do I make sure that a Craigslist pets ad is legitimate?

You can ensure legitimacy by requesting detailed information about the pet, its health history, and the seller's background. Try to see the puppy's living conditions, and if possible, arrange a vet checkup before finalizing the purchase. Avoid deals that seem rushed or don't allow for proper vetting of the pet.


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