People are increasingly turning to local internet searches for everything new for their home, and bringing a new pet home is no exception. Choosing to buy your pet online seems like an easy way to research and meet a cute puppy, kitten, or a lovable adult pet in need of a new home. Unfortunately, online pet scams are a growing problem and you don’t want to be another victim. Pet ads on craigslist is a trending topic on Google, so much so that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has provided a statement for the site, which we encourage you to check out for well-informed caveats of online pet exchanges.
To be extra cautious when choosing to buy a pet online, also check out our list of the top 5 Do’s and Don’ts and be prepared to spot the possible warning signs of a scam:
1. DO Know Where Your Pet’s REALLY Coming From
If you notice the same picture of that adorable puppy listed for sale on several websites, chances are that image was stolen and that particular animal is not really for sale. Breeders will generally watermark their images so this doesn’t happen. If you see blurred watermarks or photos from breeders without them, be wary.
Thousands of dogs are shipped from puppy mills overseas and sold to American buyers online. Some of the puppies and kitties start showing signs of sickness as soon as they arrive and die from undisclosed health problems not long after.
Ask where your pet was born and bred and stay away from distant sellers.
Which leads us to our next Do.
2. DO Visit Your Future Pet Before You Take Him/Her Home
It’s best to see how your potential pet gets along with you and other members of your family before you bring them home for good. Cats and dogs all have different temperaments—just like humans—and some breeds and personalities click better than others.
Always visit an English bulldog or Yorkshire terrier breeder as these are the most commonly scammed breeds. Offer to pick up your pet instead of having them shipped to see where s/he really came from.
3. DON’T Get Scammed for More Money
Many potential pet owners have been scammed by sellers who claim to offer a free cat or dog if you pay for the shipping to get them to your home. What actually happens is that handsome puppy you think you’re rescuing doesn’t even really exist.
According to the Humane Society, when you give those sellers the shipping costs they ask for, a few days later you’ll be informed that your pet is being held at the airport due to complications with customs officials. They’ll demand more money from you and then disappear when you send it.
4. DON’T Use MoneyGram, Western Union, or Paypal
If the above situation happens to you, you won’t be able to ask these services to help you get your money back. Paypal may be able to investigate the charge, but scammers can easily steal money from your linked bank account and vanish.
5. DO Your Homework
If you’re set on a breeder, look for a history of happy customers via their website or Facebook page. All reputable breeders will be more than happy to share your pet’s full medical history, pedigree information, and vaccinations.
Remember that websites likes PetFinder will connect you to local shelters if you want to avoid the potential of online scams altogether. Plus, you’ll get to rescue a pet who really needs your help. Don’t forget that purebreds wind up in shelters, too.