Paradise Lost: Selling Dogs Out of Pickup Trucks in Hawaii

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I saw dogs for sale all over the place, from pickup trucks to front yards. Wow, we still sell dogs this way?


On a recent magical week-long visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, we stayed at a beautiful off-grid cottage on a small plantation overlooking the Pacific. It was idyllic in every way (except for the brute of a centipede that dropped from a ceiling beam and onto my bare leg). The cottage owner has a bunch of happy sheep, a way-cool cow, and a couple of smiling dogs. The huge garden area of the property is fenced, and the dogs have free roam of a couple of acres of papayas, pineapples, coffee plants, passionfruit vines, and sprawling grassy knoll.

It wasn’t until we got off the remote property that I saw that it wasn’t all dog heaven on the island. Sure, there were plenty of content, well-loved dogs. But it seemed that at nearly every not-super-touristy spot we went, there were also dogs for sale, or signs on bulletin boards and in front of homes advertising dogs for sale. One time in Hilo a hard-scrabble guy was walking a scraggly mutt, trying to sell him to passersby. Not far away, a forlorn Lab mix was roped in front of his home with a big “dog for sale” sign. We also saw advertised dogs in the back of pickup trucks.

I spotted the above pickup truck at a Target parking lot when we were buying a few essentials on a cloudy morning. Later the truck was parked alongside a busy street. I would have talked to the owner if he’d been around so I could get an idea of the situation, but the only glimpse I caught of him was when he was heading into the store.

Some of the dogs for sale were purebreds, but we were told by a local resident that many are mixed breeds. People are buying mixes? What’s the deal with that? Dogs aren’t that hard to come by on the island. Shelters and rescue groups are often stuffed to overflowing, according to another Big Island resident. She, too, was baffled.

Oddly, sometimes non-pups were listed for sale as well, as the below sign shows.

Wow, two mid-life, unrelated dogs are for sale, and the female might even be pregnant? This is just not something we see around the San Francisco Bay Area. Nor are any of the above scenarios.

When I got home, I started thinking more about what I’d just witnessed on this gorgeous island. It kind of reminded me of long ago, in the rural part of New England where I spent my formative years. (That was even before Mitt Romney put his dog on the top of the car en route to the family vacation spot.) There were chained dogs for sale, signs for mutts for sale, and unwanted pups put in sacks and drowned in the river. Things really are different now — aren’t they?

Or is it just that I live in a bubble in this metropolitan area, where if anyone dared to advertise a dog for sale in the back of their pickup they’d have to answer to the vocal animal brigade? Is the kind of thing I witnessed on this bucolic island as rare these days as I’d like to believe? I’d love to hear from people in other areas of the country about their experiences. I know puppy mills abound and cruelty and neglect know no borders. But I’d like to learn if this blatant peddling of pooches in the streets and on bulletin boards and front yards is far more commonplace than I realize.

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