Would-be Pet Owners Nipped By Scams

Pet lovers seeking new canine companions are often surprised, and sometimes discouraged, to discover how expensive a purebred puppy or dog can be. Purebreds can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, not including veterinary, shipping and pedigree costs. That’s why the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is cautioning consumers to watch out for classified ads offering purebred puppies for free or at prices that seem too good to be true.

Earlier this month a classified ad ran in Penny Savers USA, an online portal for online classifieds and coupons, offering free Yorkshire terrier puppies a breed that typically sells for $250-$2,000 apiece.

The advertiser was listed as having locations in Minneapolis and Duluth. The consumer who reported this questionable ad to the BBB also stated that when she emailed the advertiser to express interest in adopting a puppy, they assured her they would cover all fees. However, shortly afterwards, when she received an email stating that the breeders were at the airport ready to ship the puppies but needed $170 for “ownership transfer,” she suspected the offer was a scam and she was right.

Puppy scams often hook people with offers of free puppies, collect money for bogus fees, such as shipping or ‘ownership transfer,’ and then never deliver the advertised puppies or dogs. Many of these scams originate in Africa, especially Cameroon. This May a student in Minnesota lost over $1,000 to one of these scams when they tried to purchase a puppy online. The business listed itself as having a Minneapolis address but was actually operating out of Cameroon.

In some cases people selling a puppy or dog are at risk of becoming the victim of a scam. An individual who placed an ad in the Duluth News Tribune to sell puppies contacted the BBB recently to report that they had been contacted by a scammer. The email the seller received from the scammer, who claimed to be hearing impaired and only able to communicate through text or email, was rife with grammatical errors, and offered to send “a certified check or money” to cover the cost of the dog plus shipping costs. The scammer instructed the seller to cash the check immediately, deduct the sale price and send the amount of the shipping fee to “the head office of the company that handles shipment via Western Union.” Had the seller followed those instructions, they would have discovered the check was no good and they would have been out the shipping fees they had inadvertently wired to the scammer.

The BBB offers the following tips to avoid scams when you’re looking to adopt or sell a pet:

  • Beware of ads with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors; many pet scams come from overseas, particularly Africa, so scammers usually do not have a good grasp on the English language.
  • When selling a pet, never deal with people who offer to send you a check for more than the requested amount under the conditions that you wire the extra money back to them or any of their affiliates, such as deliverers or handlers. A good rule to follow is never wire money to people you don’t know.
  • If purchasing a pedigreed pet, be sure the breeder provides documentation of the parents’ registration with the American Kennel Club. This ensures that the pet is in fact a legitimate pure-bred animal. It is then your responsibility to register your pet with the American Kennel Club.
  • After purchasing a purebred pet, keep all paperwork including receipts, proof of registration and proof of parents’ registration.
  • Bring all pets to see a veterinarian immediately for an independent examination, any necessary shots, and to establish a baseline for later health care.
  • When purchasing from a pet store, be sure to ask for a detailed history of the pet’s origin. Unfortunately, some pet stores supply from unsafe and inhumane puppy mills.
  • The Humane Society offers healthy pets for free, but keep in mind that previous ownership may influence a pet’s demeanor. Some adopted pets have been subject to abuse, neglect, or poor conditioning. Be prepared to commit time and patience to helping your new pet adjust to his/her home.