Netlore Archive: Ibuystrays.com website purports to offer cash for unwanted pets to be resold to companies engaged in animal experimentation
Description: Web hoax / Satire
Circulating since: December 2007
Example of Craigslist posting dated Dec. 28, 2007:
I Buy Stray Dogs and Cats
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2007-12-28, 3:33PM EST
Do you have one too many cats? Or maybe a litter of unwanted puppies? I can help you out and put a little money in your pocket.
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Comments: IBuyStrays.com was online for barely a week when it achieved instant notoriety thanks to anonymous ads posted on Craigslist.com and the word-of-mouth criticism that followed. People who viewed the site took offense at the apparent callousness of its message, expressing puzzlement, anger, and outrage. From day one, the question uppermost on everyone's mind has been, is it real? The answer is no.
Though it purports to represent a legitimate enterprise, the website lists no physical address, phone number, or other real-world contact information. I could find no evidence that a company doing business as "IBuyStrays.com LLC" even existed prior to the date of the domain registration (December 21, 2007). I've found no compelling evidence of its existence since that date, either.
While not entirely preposterous, the basic premise of the site stretches credulity. It is true that under U.S. law, licensed "Class B" animal dealers may legally purchase animals -- including pets -- from private individuals as well as pounds and shelters and resell them to research facilities. But they stay in business by cruising under the public radar, not by overtly soliciting family pets for purposes of laboratory testing. In fact, this website appears to be drawing precisely the sort of attention most animal dealers seek fervently to avoid.
Hoax or political satire?
So it seems there is a serious point to all of this. When I contacted the operator of the site, who replied to my messages using only the initials "IBS," he (or she) took umbrage at my referring to the enterprise as a hoax. "The word you're looking for is 'satire' (and militant satire at that)," IBS wrote. "The goal of a hoax is primarily either humor or to defraud someone. Though amusing to some, I would not call my site 'funny' and I'm not trying to steal anyone's money. So, by definition, it's not a hoax."
All well and good, provided the site actually meets the definition of satire, namely: "A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit." So, what human vice or folly is being attacked? The unscrupulous practices of certain parties who actually do buy and sell animals for research.
"The Animal Welfare Act allows Class B animal dealers to legally purchase from random sources and resell them," explains IBS. "Pets truly are purchased every day and sold to laboratories. If people are upset with the type and style of my business, they can feel free to just write me more hate mail instead of contacting their Congressman about the Pet Safety and Protection Act."
Which I take to be a roundabout way of urging support for the Pet Safety and Protection Act, which was re-introduced in Congress earlier this year. The legislation takes aim at unscrupulous Class B dealers and their middlemen, called "bunchers," the latter of whom are not currently subject to USDA regulations and stand accused of many abuses. "Class B dealers and bunchers have been known to acquire lost, stray and 'free to a good home' dogs and cats, as well as pets from their owners' backyards," writes Stephanie Edwards of the Humane Society. The new law would clamp down on these practices, as well as research facilities which continue to purchase animals from illegitimate sources.
Website focuses attention on a real problem
So, while the nature and purpose of the enterprise touted on IBuyStrays.com strains the boundaries of both reason and good taste, it highlights a real problem for which a real solution may be in the offing. Judging from the sampling of vicious comments IBS shared with me, public revulsion toward the site has run spectacularly high. When I asked IBS to respond to the avalanche of criticism, I received this characteristically cagey reply:
"I urge the public to contact their Congressman immediately and urge him NOT to support The Pet Safety and Protection Act, S. 714. This bill would prohibit the practice of Class B dealers and unlicensed individuals from selling random dogs and cats to laboratories and be very deleterious for my business."
Translation: If you hate IBuyStrays.com and everything it stands for, do write your representatives in support of the Pet Safety and Protection Act, and put the real offenders out of business.
Sources and further reading:
Pets: U.S. Facts & Figures
Oxford Lafayette Humane Society, Oct. 6, 2007
National Pet Alliance Presentation
Cat Fanciers, August 10, 1996
Pet Owner Survey Results
Cat Fanciers, no date given
Animal Care Guide: Random Source Dog & Cat Dealer Inspection
USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service
Laboratory Animal Sources
The Shady Bunch: Seedy Dealers May Be Cruising for Animals Online
Tucson Weekly, July 26, 2007
Pet Safety and Protection Act Introduced
Human Society of the U.S., March 2, 2007
Last updated: 01/03/08