Adopting a Puppy or Dog From a Private Party
Before we can discuss the pros and cons of getting a puppy or dog directly from its current pet owner, we must first mention that there are more different types of people with different intentions (both good and bad) than you can ever imagine. It is of course possible to find honest people who want nothing more than to find a good home for a dog that they can longer keep. But it is important to keep in mind that there are always a lot of unknowns when dealing with the general public. As such, we cannot make any specific recommendedations, except to point out some of the issues you may run into if you are considering the possibility of getting a puppy or dog this way.
- Possibly Cheaper - If you can find a puppy or dog that is being offered "free to good home", AND is already up to date on vaccinations and heartworm preventatives, AND is already neutered/spayed, AND has no medical or behavioral issues, then this would be the cheapest way of getting a new puppy or dog. However, that's a big IF. You are relying on the offering party being completely honest with you. Even if medical records are provided, they could have been for another dog, not the one they are trying to get rid of (unless the dog is microchipped and you can confirm everything on the medical records directly with the veterinarian). This is the reason that rescue groups do NOT take the word of the current pet owners for it, but instead, will always have the dog checked over by a veterinarian and get all the shots and heartworm tests (and such) done again just to be sure. Unfortunately, doing/repeating all these tests and shots costs money, and part of these expenses are usually passed on to the adopting party in the form of an adoption fee (usually somewhere in the range of $50 to $450). One other thing we'd like to mention is that most private pet owners looking to rehome their own pets are adviced to charge a small rehoming fee to ensure a good home for the pets. The theory is that someone who really wants a dog to love is willing to pay for one, verses someone with bad intentions who just wants to pick up a free dog (for example, to use the dog as a bait in illegal dog fights). So don't be concerned if you are asked to pay such a fee in order to adopt a dog. However, that fee must be small (say $30 to $75 for a full-grown dog, possibly a little more for a young and healthy puppy), otherwise you run the risk of someone stealing other people's beloved pets to turn around and "sell" for a profit. They are in effect selling (instead of rehoming) a dog if they are asking for an unreasonably high fee.
- Pet Supplies Included - More often than not, when you adopt a dog from its current pet owners directly, they would be happy to pass on the dog's bed, crate, toys, collar, leash, and whatever food and treats they still have left. This can sometimes make a big difference in your upfront cost of acquiring a new dog. In addition, this will often help the dog settle in quicker, if all its familiar and favorite items are coming with it to the new home.
- More Complete History - Assuming that you are dealing with an honest pet owner, you will be able to get a more complete history about the dog's past than you could if you adopted from an animal shelter or rescue group. Rescue groups usually do their best to pass on any information they get from the previous pet owners (unless it was a stray), but usually the amount of information is not nearly as complete as you could get if you dealt directly with the pet owners. You might have some very specific questions that you want to ask, but that are not something most people care about and therefore not something the rescue groups would have asked the previous pet owners.
- Biased Information - Even if you are dealing with honest pet owners with perfectly good intentions, they are most likely emotionally bonded to their dog, and any information you get from them about the dog will be biased.
Their definition of what constitutes a problem behavior or not may also be different from yours. There is by definition a conflict of interest at work in these types of situations. The current pet owners find themselves (for whatever reason) no longer able to take care of the dog, and are most likely already straining beyond their capacity by the time they make the decision to give up the dog. So if they perceive you to be a good potential new owner, they might consciously or subconciously try to avoid mentioning any negative information that might lead you not to want the dog. Sure, they know that eventually you would find out, and might not keep the dog once you find out, but there is a good chance that by then you will be hopelessly attached to the dog (as often happens) and will do whatever it takes to try to solve the problems and keep the dog. If nothing else, it might buy the dog some time if the current pet owners are in a hurry to get the dog out of their house. They might be losing their house next week, or whatever, and once you take the dog from them, if it doesn't work out, it becomes your problem to find the dog a good home. Of course, there could very well be a perfect dog for you out there that doesn't come with any hidden problems. We just want you to be aware of all the different possibilities.
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- No Return Option - There are exceptions, but usually when you adopt a dog from a private party, you don't have the option of returning the dog if it doesn't work out. Even if the previous pet owners were completely honest with you about any potential issues with the dog, there might be something in your life that they could not have foreseen that would make the adoption not work out. It typically takes a few weeks for a dog to settle into a new home. So you won't really know about long-term problems immediately.
By the time it becomes obvious that the dog will not work out in your home, the previous pet owners might have moved away or might for other reasons be unable or unwilling to take the dog back. In contrast, almost all animal shelters and rescue groups will take back a dog if the new home does not work out. You may or may not get your adoption fee back, but at least you won't be stuck with a dog with no place to go. Of course, if you adopt a dog from a private party and find that you cannot keep the dog, you can then turn the dog over to a rescue group or shelter. There's just the extra step of finding one in your area that will accept the dog. Most places that will take any dog have space limitations and euthanize many dogs routinely when they run out of space. You can try to find a no-kill shelter, but by definition, if they are keeping all the dogs, they will at some point run out of space and stop accepting more dogs. You can (and should) eventually find a place that will take the dog from you and keep it until they find a new home for it, it just might take some more effort than if you simply returned a dog to the same shelter or rescue group where it came from.