A shocking case of animal abuse that galvanized dog lovers across the country has put a renewed focus on Craigslist’s potential responsibility in abetting animal cruelty and sparked calls for the popular classifieds site to change its policies surrounding animal adoptions.
On Aug. 31, a female dog who rescuers named ‟Puppy Doe” was found wandering the streets of the Boston suburb of Quincy, Mass. The Animal Rescue League of Boston reported that Puppy Doe was at half the normal weight for a dog of her age and breed, was suffering from bone fractures in her skull and spine as a result of savage beatings, and had a stab wound in her right eye.
The dog died soon after being taken in by authorities.
“The injuries cataloged in the post-mortem examination are grotesque and indicate consistent starvation and abuse over an extended period of time,” Norfolk County District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey said in a statement. “It is highly unlikely that this level of sadistic cruelty could be shown to one animal and not be part of a pattern involving other animals or perhaps vulnerable people.”
“Words cannot adequately describe the shocking suffering that Puppy Doe endured,” added Animal Rescue League President Mary Nee.
Local authorities were deluged with tips after putting out a call for information regarding the case and were eventually directed to Radoslaw Czerkawski, a 32-year-old undocumented immigrant from Poland living in Connecticut. Authorities claim that a bloody paw print and scratch marks on a door were discovered at the home in which Czerkawski was staying, which is near the park where Puppy Doe was discovered.
Czerkawski was charged with 11 counts of animal cruelty as well as one count of misleading police investigators.
The defendant allegedly procured Puppy Doe after answering a Craigslist posting by someone looking to give the dog away a few months prior. Some animal activists see Craigslist allowing these types of transactions to happen in the first as the site essentially facilitating animal cruelty.
A Change.org petition, which has tallied more than 345,000 signatures, slammed Craigslist as the ‟go-to source for animal abusers looking for victims because it is anonymous and there is no accountability or screening process like regular shelters and rescue groups provide.”
The petition called on Craigslist to alter its policy on pet re-homing from one that’s relatively open to one requiring all adoptions to go through registered shelters, which could prevent animals from falling into the hands of abusers.
In a post about the Puppy Doe case, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster called the petition ‟misguided,” arguing that the direct re-homing of pets through the site is actually in the best interest of the animals themselves due to widespread overcrowding at the vast majority of ‟no kill” shelters across the country. ‟Countless pets find good homes on CL, saved from unnecessary euthanization (shelters have to put down 3 million healthy pets yearly),” wrote Buckmaster. ‟In fact, CL ‛pets’ is a primary tool shelter volunteers themselves use to find homes for dogs and cats they would otherwise have to kill.”
Craigslist prohibits the sale of animals over the site, but allows people giving an animal away to charge a small adoption fee.
Teresa Chagrin, an Animal Care and Control Specialist at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, charges that, because what constitutes a reasonable re-homing fee is left open to interpretation, dog breeders who would otherwise be banned from advertising on the site have been allowed to pose as rescue outfits simply looking to recoup their costs incurred by simply trying to find abandoned pets a new home. Some breeders, she insists, have gone as far as registering with the government as nonprofit shelters.
‟[What happened to Puppy Doe] is not an isolated incident by any means. It happens all the time. These online ads are extremely dangerous to animals.” said Chagrin. ‟The problem is that Craigslist is a self-policed website…Once people give an animal up on Craigslist, it’s impossible to know what happens to them.”
PETA noted that it routinely reaches out directly to individuals giving away animals on the site to inform them of the dangers that could come to the animals if they aren’t placed in a good home. The organization also advocated for Craigslist to place a brief warning about giving animals away for free on the top of its pets section.
Representatives from Craigslist did not respond to a request for comment.
Czerkawski is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial hearing in late November.
Photo by Justice For “Puppy Doe”/Facebook