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Puppy Scams: Use Caution When Buying a Puppy

Published on: March 3, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel


Thinking about buying a puppy?  It’s hard to imagine anything more cuddly and fun than a puppy who will turn into a beloved companion for life (OK, if you’re a cat person, you might say “kitten” instead).  Before you make any buying decision, make sure you do your homework.  To start, keep reading below and check out our other blog posts about puppy scams.  This is also an excellent article from Pets4Homes titled "Buying a pet - How to avoid potential scams and pitfalls".

Sadly, puppy scams are all too common.  With the popularity and reach of the internet, pet scammers have new ways to reach out to you and your money, playing on your heartstrings and desire to add a four-legged member to your family.

As an international pet shipping company, we at Starwood Animal Transport are well aware of puppy scams.  We want you to know the facts, so your puppy acquisition experience is positive and the outcome is exactly what you hoped for.

Please keep in mind that reputable pet shipping companies, like Starwood, do not sell puppies or charge a "shipping fee", nor do they require any payment up front until you have spoken with the sales team, received a quote and agreed to their pet shipping services.

Be aware of the problem

Puppy scams can happen to anyone. That’s why, in the US, the ASPCA and the Humane Society both say you should use extreme caution when looking for a puppy online. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) explains: “Pet scam criminals use free websites, Craig’s List, local newspapers, or Facebook to advertise pets that do not exist.”

They may look and act legitimate, with a professional-looking website or by using business names or logos that mimic real pet-related businesses. Or they may pose as a pet owner needing to “re-home” their puppy because of personal hardship. They may pose as “rescuers” or small “breeders” offering very popular dogs at very low prices. Tiny toy breeds, Bulldogs, and mixes such as Labradoodles are good examples. Sometimes the puppies are free – you pay only for “shipping,” but you never receive a dog.

If you do receive a puppy through these offers, you can be pretty sure it came from a puppy mill. The ASPCA says there are about 10,000 puppy mills in the US, facilities where dogs are crowded, poorly fed or cared for. You want a puppy that is healthy and well-socialized with other dogs and people, so you can get off to a great start together.

So just as with any other purchase, if the puppy offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. It’s not the right deal for you.

Be part of the solution

There are so many wonderful, reliable sources to find the perfect puppy for your family.


Your local animal shelter has dogs who are hoping to find their “furrever” home. They are mixed breeds and purebreds, senior dogs and, yes, puppies. If you want a particular breed, there are many breed-specific rescue groups across the country, working to find great homes for dogs that have been abandoned or mistreated. The adoption fees you pay to a shelter or rescue group support quality, healthy living environments for dogs in waiting, not a puppy mill or some other dodgy enterprise.

Most of these organizations post photos of their current residents, so you can easily search for a puppy that appeals to you. Then you can visit them in person to see if you’re a good match. That kind of chemistry is important when you’re choosing a pet you will cherish for years.

Bona fide breeders

Of course there are reputable dog breeders. Again, experts say the most important thing you can do is to visit the facility. Meet the breeder – check out the premises to see how dogs are treated, and check their references. Then meet the puppies that are available to see if one “clicks” with your family.

Pet stores

Unfortunately, the puppies for sale in pet stores often come from puppy mills. The Humane Society recommends against buying one of these pups. Instead, look for a pet shop that partners with a shelter or rescue group to help “promote” dogs and puppies who need good homes.

We know your heart goes out to puppy mill puppies. But you aren’t “rescuing” the pup if you buy one. You’re making room for another unfortunate puppy to take its place. And you’re helping the puppy mill owner make money. 

Speak up

If you feel you have encountered a puppy scam, you are urged to report it. You can do that by contacting:

No matter how tempting it may seem, just say no to buying a puppy online. Dogs everywhere will thank you, and there are plenty of other ways you can find the puppy of your dreams. Woof!

Dog relaxed about pet travel

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.