First of all, thank you to all my fans who came out to my Open House last weekend! A great time was had by all, and I was very pleased by the amount of attention I received that day. I hope you had as much fun as I did!

If you were paying attention, you may have noticed the cute, fat little piglet at Dr. Vurgason’s booth. This piglet is one of many that are purchased on Craigslist every day, often by unsuspecting owners. Online shopping on Craigslist is good for a lot of things. Finding an apartment to rent? Great! Need some gently used car furniture? Awesome. Do you want an appropriate forum for your sale of goat’s milk body soap? OK! But do you know what Craigslist is generally not good for? Buying a pet.

I have seen so many neglected horses, sick pigs, and generally ill-thrift animals come through the clinic that people have recently acquired online. Now, there are a few exceptions, and sometimes I see a perfectly healthy, well-behaved animal that was just like they said it would be online…but that is certainly not the rule. I think the problem lies in the fact that humans are too gullible these days! A cat like myself would never be fooled by one of these “free to a good home” scams.

There are certain phrases in the human language which used to be commonplace, and they helped to remind people why they should be skeptical when they see a horse for sale for cheap/free. For example, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Do you know why? Because chances are he is 100 years old and needs a ton of dental work done! Honestly I don’t know why I’m telling you this…that’s more work for us, and more chances you will bring him to the clinic and give me attention while you’re there. Phrase #2: “there’s no such thing as a free horse.” Basically there is no such thing as a free pet in general. If the price listed is less than you think the horse is worth, I can guarantee you are going to be paying more than the difference in basic veterinary care and feed. Let’s not forget the phrase, “he’s a little long in the tooth.” In horses, long in the tooth=old. Do you know how to age a horse by it’s teeth? I don’t, but the docs do! You should probably bring a knowledgeable horse person with you to look at the Craigslist horse so they can tell you if the horse listed as “about 8 years old” is actually 18, or even 28.

If you absolutely insist on buying an animal off of Craigslist, at least have one of our veterinarians do a pre-purchase examination on him before you pick him up. In general you should plan on spending 10 to 20% of the purchase price of a horse on the pre-purchase exam. I would argue that when buying from Craigslist, you should spend twice the listed purchase price on a pre-purchase exam, just because these animals are so much more likely to have serious medical problems. I see lots of people bringing horses to us after they have already been purchased, for what we term a post-purchase exam. They are usually surprised and disappointed by what the doctors find wrong with the horse, and it is too late for them to get their money back.

So, here are Tony’s rules for not getting scammed on Craigslist: 1) Beware of the word “broke.” A broke horse has many different meanings to different people. A horse that is broke to having a saddle put on its back is not necessarily broke enough for a child or beginner rider. 2) Make sure the horse is a registered member of an actual breed, especially if breeding or resale is important to you. Certain breed registries has very strict requirements but others are very lenient. If a horse is registered as “Grade,” that essentially means it is not eligible for any breed registry. 3) When buying a horse online pay attention to the horse’s condition. If the horse is underweight you may end up spending a lot of money in feed bills. If the horse is overweight he could be at risk for laminitis or other metabolic conditions that could cost you a lot of money. 4) The bottom line is to have our docs do a pre-purchase examination on the animal BEFORE you buy it. We are your advocates; we are on your side! Well, unless you make me move from my sunny spot in the driveway because you have to park your car…

Until next week,