Puppy scams are on the rise. Searching for puppies online these days brings up more scam sites than real ones. And it’s not only sales; adoption and re-homing scams are also on the rise.
It’s understandable. People are home, isolated and seeking companionship. People who have never shopped online are now doing so and may not know how to spot a scam. Unfortunately, the scammers are ready.
The surest way not to get scammed is to purchase a pet in person. Payment should not change hands unless your hand is on the pet you are buying.
Let’s face it, people are going to buy dogs on the internet, sight unseen, no matter how many times or how loud I say no. These guidelines will help you know when to walk away from a sale, adoption or re-home.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
Don’t shop emotionally. Wait until a rational decision can be made. You must be able to walk away.
Purchase the Pet in Person
Use the internet to find what you’re looking for, but do the transaction in person.
Find a local reputable breeder, shelter or rescue. Ask friends who have pets for recommendations. Contact local breed clubs for breeder recommendations in your area. You can find a list at AKC.org. The AKC’s Marketplace is a good place to start, but you need to do more.
Research the Breeder
Ask a lot of questions. Visit their kennels. If it’s not possible to visit in person, do a live video visit so you get a sense of who they are and how they care for their dogs. (This goes for people re-homing a dog.)
Call breed clubs local to breeder and ask about them; both in-state and out-of-state. Local breed clubs can also provide information about breed specific rescues. The pure bred dog world is small and most reputable breeders know or know of each other.
If the breeder refuses an interview and will not disclose their location or objects to being checked—walk away.
Research the Rescue
Just like there are bad breeders, there are bad rescues. Finding a reputable rescue can be tricky. I’m not a fan of private rescues because there is no oversight. Ask around. Read different rescue’s websites and requirements. Google their name and see if anything comes-up.
Here’s how I evaluate them. If they ask for a Consumer Credit Report as part of the application, I ask them what they do with the information after they are done. I’m suspicious of any rescue that requires this. A background check, veterinarian reference and employer should do it. If they get angry at questions–walk away.
Ask questions about how the rescue is run and how they care for the dogs. Where do the dogs come from? Are they vet checked? What’s the background of the people running it? Do they use foster homes? How do they choose their foster homes? Don’t accept vague answers about crawling under houses. In fact, if they reference crawling under houses at any time or get angry at being questioned—walk away.
If they refer to the pet being adopted as a “child” or “furkid” and the adopter as the “parent” or “pet parent,” I won’t deal with them. It’s up to you. Dogs and cats are an important part of the family, but they are not the same as kids.
Read the contract. If it reads as if the pet is being rented—walk away.
If they try to send dogs opposite of what you are seeking —walk away.
Personally, I prefer municipal shelters with volunteer groups attached, the local Humane Society and breed specific rescues run by breed clubs.
Websites and Facebook Pages
Reputable breeders do list available puppies on Facebook and the Internet. When researching a seller online, their name, location, and contact information should be easy to find. If all that’s available for contact is Facebook messenger, they will only contact you via some type of text messaging or email or won’t reveal their exact location—walk away.
Pick-up the Puppy in Person
Puppy scams tend to use fake transportation companies to get more money from you. They will try to sell everything from Pet Travel Insurance to Covid-19 proof crates. If you cannot pick-up the puppy in person, have a trusted friend pick-up for you. If that is not possible, negotiate the price of transportation with the seller as part of the purchase price or arrange transportation yourself. If they ask for additional money for anything—walk away.
Pay by credit card, check or PayPal Invoice—DO NOT USE PALPAY FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Most cash apps cannot refund your money. Do not pay by money order or gift card. Know the refund policy of the payment method you use BEFORE you use it. For in-person purchases, most breeders will accept all mentioned above and cash. If an online seller refuses PayPal, PayPal Invoice, credit card or check—walk away.
When evaluating a website remember, if it sounds to good to be true it’s probably a scam. Reputable breeders generally do not seek buyers. They do not run sales. If you see “Get 2 puppies for $900” or the seller wants to close the deal immediately—walk away.
Know the going price for the puppy you are purchasing. If the site offers a real bargain—walk away. For example, if they offer micro-mini Pomeranians for $500. Those dogs go for a lot more than that.
If the messages from the seller are in broken english, use odd phrasing, the website or email contains something weird like .club or .dog—walk away.
Look at the backgrounds of the photos and not just the cute puppies. Are they taken in different locations? Do they look like a lavish photo shoot? Does a Google image search show the same photos on other sites? If yes—walk away.
If the photos have a frame or appear to be screen shots—walk away.
IF A DOG IS PURCHASED FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO!!!
No. Nothing. You’re money is gone. If there is an inking the person you are dealing with is in another country; an accent, weird phrasing in messages, weird email address; anything—walk away.
I Had a Feeling
Many, many people realize in the middle of purchasing that they are being scammed, but they are desperate to hold that cute little puppy in their arms, so they ignore it. They want to believe the dog is theirs and that’s how they get you. Trust your instincts—walk away.
If nothing else, have a disinterested friend look at the site or messages. Or send it to me, I’m always happy to help. You can post it in the comments below or use my contact page.
For more information on scams or to report a scam: