Animal abuser registries can help people perform background checks before handing over their pets. "We've seen that happen in many places, and in Tennessee the registry is now statewide," Heiser said.
But first, rather than placing a free-to-a-good-home ad online, Heiser suggested trying to rehome the animal with an animal rescue organization or shelter. "At least a shelter has some kind of vetting process," he said.
In circumstances where a no-kill shelter can't be found in your area, Heiser suggested doing the extra legwork if you are advertising on sites like Craigslist to ensure your pet will be safe. "If you're going to do a free-to-a-good-home [ad], before you place the animal, do a home visit," he said. "Anyone who is willing to take on a pet should be willing to do that. That should turn out pretty well for the animal for most of the time."
"Never offer your animal as 'free to a good home.'"
People who know firsthand how crowded and stressful animal shelters can be see the internet as a potentially useful tool for direct rehoming.
"Ending up in a kennel can be incredibly stressful for any animal," Katie Armour, project coordinator at the MSPCA Boston Adoption Center, told The Dodo. "As empathetic animal lovers, we experience this stress along with these animals and do what we can to alleviate it as they wait to find their forever home. Many would benefit from being directly placed into a loving home."