Yorkies are one of the most frequently scammed pet sales in online ads.
A friend of mine who breeds Airedale Terriers told me that she intended to fly from San Diego to Houston to pick up a female Airedale and then to New York to pick up her mate. Why, I asked, didn’t she have the dogs shipped to her?
“I want to see those dogs in person before I pay for them, that’s why,” she answered, as if I should have known why.
I didn’t really know; I’d assumed she’d seen photos and videos of the dogs and knew their ancestry. But I just learned that according to a recent Better Business Bureau (BBB) account, more than 80 percent of online pet sales are a hoax.
Here is a representation of the number of dog sales by breed that the BBB found were hoaxes.
Pie chart of breeds scammed according to BBB study.
Imagine this! Petscams.com did another study between May 29 and July 12, 2017 - only a six week period - and found has provided a breakdown of the pet websites they have flagged as fraudulent. The largest number of bogus websites they identified were selling Yorkshire terriers (108), French Bulldogs (105), Pomeranians (77), Bulldogs (73), and Huskies (63).
It's not just dog sales!
Sales offers may be for certain breeds of dogs, cats, birds, or a variety of exotic pets, including tiger cubs! Ads for sale or adoption of these animals can appear anywhere online and look very legitimate, even sophisticated, like the one below.
Just one of the hundreds of scam websites found by PetScams.
Though scammers in Cameroon are suspected to be behind a majority of the pet scams, they can originate from anywhere in the world and often have contacts in the U.S. help them with the sales.
Advertisers selling pets ask for up-front payment as well as shipping fees and various other charges; some advertisers ‘give away’ pets and ask only for shipping fees. They ask for payment by Western Union or Money Gram. If payment is not sent, the sellers often claim the animal is already at the airport and will be abandoned if money is not sent.
It doesn’t matter. The animal is not at the airport and will never be shipped whether you pay or not.
There are even scam shipping services you can contract to ship your non-existent pet.
Some scams do sell real pets, but they are not as advertised.
Then, there are what’s referred to as “puppy mill sales,” where there may, in fact, be puppies for sale, but they are not bred and born under very high standards for breeding. The puppy may arrive, after you pay for him in advance, but the puppy may not be very healthy.
The best way to avoid scams:
There are plenty of animal lovers that are looking for certain pets or certain pet breeds. I generally promote adoption of these breeds when possible, as there are national organizations with local chapters that rescue and place pets in foster homes. But if a brand spanking new puppy from a champion breeder is your thing, you better search very carefully, starting with:
- Visiting the breeder.
- Check out the breeding facility. Make sure the stalls are clean and the cages have room.
- Meet the pup parents. Examine their breeding charts and their medical records. Check out their temperaments.
- Make sure the pups are not weaned before 12 or 13 weeks. Even if you decide to take one of the pups, they should be weaned properly first.
- Check breeder references, including veterinarians and past customers of the breeder. Learn about the health and development of their pups.
- Compare the puppies you see to breed standards.
You can’t buy everything online. You wouldn’t adopt a child online and you shouldn’t buy or adopt a pet online, especially when there’s a very good chance that there is no pet at the other end of the transaction.