Thinking of buying a puppy or kitten? Cruising on the internet and see an adorable picture of a puppy for sale? Don’t fall for the hardship stories and the cute pictures. Pet scammers have made millions off of good people who want to add a pet to their family and thought it would be easy to transport it, sometimes hundreds of miles across many countries.
A 2019 survey by the American Pet Products Association estimates that as many of 36% of all pets purchased are done so via the Internet. Considering this venue is rift with posers and autonomous individuals who can pretend to be anyone they want, this is a very risky marketplace to purchase a pet. But there are things that you can do to avoid being the victim of a puppy scam (or any other animal).
Here are some tips to look out for when dealing with people on the internet who say they will deliver you a pet:
- Hardship stories about how they can no longer care for the puppy or kitten
- Poor use of English
- Inability to contact the seller by phone.
- Changes of email address.
- Requests for personal information.
- Seller offers the pet for free; you simply have to pay a nominal charge for shipping
- Tells you that you will need pet insurance to transport your pet (not required nor is it necessary nor available in most countries).
- Saying that you cannot pick up the animal; it must be delivered, and they can arrange to deliver it to your door. (This would require the use of an agent which would add to the cost.)
- Seller is not familiar with pet import regulations for your country.
- Seller sends you a detailed and colorful form with all sorts of details and company logos on it.
Here are some things that you can do to ensure you are working with a legitimate person:
- Ask for licensing information if the seller claims to be a breeder. It is common practice for commercial breeders to be licensed. Find more information on pet licensing in the United States here.
- Ask for the seller’s website, Facebook, Twitter or other social media page if they claim to be a breeder.
- Do some internet research and see if others have posted experiences with the person you are dealing with.
- Ask to see a picture of the puppy or kitten with its Mother and the rest of the litter. Demand to see the veterinary certificate and contact the veterinarian to confirm they have cared for the puppy or kitten.
- Tell the seller that you would like to pick up the puppy or kitten (even if you cannot do this, if the response to your request is not positive, beware)
- Ask to meet whomever is delivering the puppy or kitten in a public place so that you can examine the puppy or kitten before paying for it. Do not give out your home address.
- If the seller mentions a shipping company, verify with that shipping company that they have a reservation to transport your puppy or kitten.
- Know that puppies and kittens must be vaccinated to enter any country in the world and they cannot be vaccinated for rabies prior to 3 months of age and must wait for 21-30 days minimum to enter the country.
- Ask if the seller accepts credit cards. Remember that, if you wire money, you have to recourse to recover it. Never pay in advance if at all possible.
- Know the requirements for pets to enter your country. Ask the seller for details about all the forms they will need to fill out so that your puppy can enter your country. The US does not even allow puppies intended for re-homing to enter the country before 6 months of age.
Find your country’s pet import regulations and know that it is very risky to fly puppies and kittens in the cargo hold of an airplane. They need to develop their respiratory systems to fly safely. The older they are, the better the chances they will arrive safely.
Try rescue foundations in your country before buying a pet from another country. The love you will receive will be just as rewarding if not more so than the risk you will be taking by sending money for a pet that may never come.