Fact Check

Craigslist Target Practice Warning

Are persons in Oregon obtaining free animals through Craigslist ads to use for target shooting practice?

Published Jul 8, 2012

Claim:   Persons in Oregon are obtaining free animals through Craigslist ads to use for target shooting practice.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, July 2012]

Got a post from a friend on Facebook tonight about a group of
people using animals they got from Craigslist 'free to good homes' as
moving targets to shoot guns at. Really hoping it is False as this action
is so appalling to me.


Origins:   This warning circulated via social media seeks to alert the public to a group of people in Marion County, Oregon, who may be responding to "free to good home" ads for domestic animals placed on Craigslist in order to obtain cats or dogs to use for target shooting practice. The warning advises readers to remove such ads from Craigslist until the perpetrators have been caught and to contact the Marion County Sheriff's Department if they have any information regarding the case.

According to Portland television station KGW, Marion County authorities are aware of the issue but have not yet confirmed whether reports about it are factual:

A group of people in Marion County may be using Craigslist to find pets that they then use for target practice, police said.

The group responds to "free domestic animals to good homes" postings according to Don Thomson of the Marion County Sheriff's Office. The pets — specifically cats — are then reportedly used for shooting practice.

Thomson said numerous calls and emails had reported the crimes, but the sheriff's office had not yet determined whether the reports were factual.

Many of the callers have reported that pictures of the crimes are being posted on social media sites.

"Our Office aggressively investigates all reports of animal neglect or cruelty and we take these reports quite seriously," Thomson said.

Anyone with information was asked to call the Marion County Sheriff's Office tip line at (503) 540-8079 or email Deputy Mark Ferron.

Another Portland station, KATU, reported similarly:

Local authorities say they've been getting calls about a possible Craigslist scheme aimed at collecting domestic animals for target practice.

At this point, police do not yet know if the reports are true (the story is spreading on social networks like Facebook) but they are taking them seriously and have launched an investigation.

Here are the details from the Marion County Sheriff's Office:

The Marion County Sheriff's Office has received a number of disturbing calls and emails from concerned residents reporting that domestic animals are being used for target practice in areas of Marion County.

The reports indicate that people who are responding to Craigslist ads offering free domestic animals to good homes, and then using the animals (specifically cats) for target practice.

We are currently trying to determine if these reports are factual. Some reports are quoting Facebook postings and we have heard that there may be photos supporting the behavior.

Our office aggressively investigates all reports of animal neglect or cruelty and we take these reports quite seriously.

We provide three avenues for reporting what you know about these crimes:

You can call the Marion County Sheriff's Office Tip line at 503.540.8079, and remain anonymous.
You can directly email whatever information you have to Deputy Mark Ferron at Mferron@co.marion.or.us.
You can send any photos depicting this behavior or showing the animals reportedly shot, to Deputy Ferron or the Public Information Officer, Don Thomson at dthomson@co.marion.or.us. Thomson may also be contacted at (503) 932.8002.

On 9 July 2012, Donald Thomson, a Public Information Officer with the Marion County Sheriff's Office, stated that his office still had been unable to obtain information from anyone with "direct knowledge of any of these reported happenings":

We received a few calls over the weekend from people who have been
contacted by animal rights activists after they posted a Craigslist ad to
place an animal in a "good home". The people tell us they were threatened
by telephone and emails, and told that their animals could end up being
used for target practice, a religious sacrifice, or even deviate sexual
acts. These people have asked to remain anonymous as they don't want to
get further involved in this incident.

The bottom line is that we have not received a call from anyone having
direct knowledge of any of these reported happenings. People have
responded to postings that may or may not contain accurate information.
the acts "reported" are obviously heinous and we would naturally take
action if we had a credible victim or reporting party.

Until such time as we have more tangible or verified information to work
on, we're not going to assign additional resources to investigate this.

Last updated:   9 July 2012


    Pryor, Brian.   "Is Craigslist a Source for Animal Abuse?"

    KOIN-TV [Portland, OR].   9 July 2012.

    Thompson, Jeff.   "Marion Co. Group May Be Using Pets for Target Practice."

    KGW-TV [Portland, OR].   8 July 2012.

    KATU-TV [Portland, OR].   "Is Someone Using Craigslist to Get Pets for Target Practice?"

    8 July 2012.

    KVAL-TV [Eugene, OR].   "Is Someone Finding Pets on Craigslist for Target Practice?"

    8 July 2012.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.