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Beware of Puppy Scams During the Holidays

Published on: November 23, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

Puppy in a christmas box

For any true pet lover, few things are more reprehensible than puppy scams. Yet, sadly, the Better Business Bureau says they’re getting more complaints about pet scams during the holiday season than ever.

Pet scam reports are rising, which may be due to the fact that the public is more aware of the problem – and more willing to point the finger at scammers. Nonetheless, the BBB believes only about 10% of scams are actually reported. When you know that they have received more than 16,000 complaints since 2017, it’s easy to see just how serious the problem remains. And it’s not only puppies – kittens, birds and other pets are common, too.

Puppy scammers pluck at your heartstrings with one hand while plucking money from your wallet with the other. Don’t fall for it!

It seems so real, but it's not

  • You see a photo of a puppy or kitten online, in an ad, or on a website. It is too cute for words. You can feel yourself cuddling it. You’re hooked. This little furry bundle of joy is supposedly being offered by a breeder. Or it’s someone’s pet that now, for heart-breaking reasons, must be "re-homed". You can help!
  • All you have to do is wire money to purchase the little cutie. You do. You can’t wait to receive your new furry family member.
  • But then something comes up. The “shipper” needs to buy a special crate, or there’s some unforeseen medical expense or extra insurance required. You’ll have to cover that cost, too, but no worries – you’ll get a refund when your pet arrives. 

Nope. There will be no refund because there is no actual puppy or kitten. Not receiving the promised dog is the central complaint in 60% of the reports the BBB receives about dog sellers.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Never send money via Western Union, MoneyGram, etc. And never use a debit card or gift card to pay for anything online. None of these payment options give you any recourse to get your money back, once you realize you’ve been scammed. Using a credit card enables you to dispute charges. 
  • Online websites and social media are no place to shop for a pet, unless you’re looking at the site of a recognized shelter, rescue group, or well-reputed breeder. 
  • Consider the price. If you see a supposedly purebred puppy for sale at a surprisingly low cost, the offer is likely a fake. 

 Shop or adopt local

  • Anyone can post a photo of an animal (that’s how the scammers lure you in), but no one can fake a live puppy or kitten. When the animal is near enough for you to meet them in person and take them home yourself, no one can scam you with some bogus shipping or related fee. 
  • Have your heart set on a specific breed? There are bona fide rescue groups for many popular breeds, with wonderful puppies and adult dogs looking for forever homes. There are also reputable breeders who take their responsibilities seriously, taking excellent care of momma dogs and their pups. These people will welcome you to visit and meet potential new family members in person. And if they don’t, cross them off your list because that’s a clear indication that something is amiss. 
  • If your heart goes out to animals in need, skip the scams and go straight to your local shelter. Instead of incarcerating animals and euthanizing those not adopted quickly, most shelters now serve as temporary homes for all manner of pets until they are adopted. Animals receive loving attention, socialization opportunities, medical care, a warm bed, and nutritious food. And (in the case of dogs, at least), they often receive obedience training. 
  • Like a quality breeder, the staff at a quality shelter will be able to tell you a lot about your potential new pet, even if it is a young one. That’s what you want, because not every dog or cat is a good fit with every family. This is another reason it’s so important to meet prospective pets before choosing one. You want them to choose you, too. 
  • That’s also why you should never give pets as gifts. Experts suggest giving a collar and leash instead, with a gift certificate to “fill the collar.” That way, the intended recipient (or your whole family) can find their perfect match. 

Experts say it’s perfectly OK to adopt a new pet during the busy holidays. Just remember that puppies need lots of rest, and any new animal needs time to acclimate to a new environment. With some quiet space and lots of love, you’ll be celebrating a new family member just in time for the new year.

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.