How much is that little doggy in the window?
In the past couple of years, I’ve done numerous posts on new initiatives and laws mandating that pet stores sell only dogs and cats sourced from shelters. In general, they address two concerns. The first is to alleviate the burden on crowded animal shelters across the country. The second is to crack down on so-called puppy mills. The latter is accomplished by preventing pet shops from sourcing animals from unscrupulous breeders.
Although these measures benefit from widespread public approval, they are not universally accepted. Critics have argued that preventing the sale of pure-bred animals at reputable pet shops will make the public more susceptible to scams.
“We’ve been sending home between 60 to 80 puppies a month, and we’ve been doing it for 25 years. Most of the people who come to us are looking for pure-bred dogs, which many local rescues don’t offer,” Sean Silverman, the owner of Puppy Love in Danbury, Connecticut, told the media earlier this year.
“If stores like ours are unable to provide the type of puppies that people want, then some 15 to 20 thousand people here in Connecticut will go on the internet, get a dog with zero regulations, and have it shipped, but will not get any guarantees, it’s just putting these people in a bad situations.”
(Internet) buyer beware…
Apparently that’s sort of what happened to a Connecticut couple who recently shared their experience with the press.
A few months after the death of their 13-year-old pug Penelope in October, 2018, the couple “spotted some adorable little pugs for sale online.” Then, after visiting the website and initiating a conversation with the purported breeders by text message, the couple agreed to purchase one female and one male puppy for $650 each.
The cost raised some concerns, according to published reports.
“I questioned as to why they were so inexpensive. He said it was because it was Texas and no one’s willing to pay that much money for pugs in the South as compared to the Northeast,” Amy Beaulieu told the media.
Her concern grew when the alleged breeders directed them to send a $400 deposit through their United bank cash app.
“Eventually, he called one time and I said I have some concerns about the texting and this sounds a little bit too good to be true. And he assured me, it’s fine we’re a family business. Everything’s safe,” said Beaulieu.
According to Beaulieu, that was the last contact she had with the alleged breeder.
“We were pretty angry about it and felt a little bit naïve too,” she said.
With no other recourse, Beaulieu made a police report, filed a claim with her bank and reported the matter to the Better Business Bureau.
Now here’s some good advice
According to the BBB, the vast majority of sponsored pet ads may be generated by people with less than honest motives. Consequently, the consumer watchdog says the Internet “may not always be the best way to purchase a pet.”
Citing reports made through its “Scam Tracker,” the agency also says that since the beginning of 2019, Connecticut consumers claim to have lost nearly $6,000 in online puppy scams.
The BBB serving Connecticut has this advice to help protect consumers when it comes to choosing their next pet:
- Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an online search of the picture of the pet you are looking to purchase. If the same photograph is featured on multiple websites, it may be a scam.
- Do not honor any request for payment by money order/wire service. Using a credit card allows you to dispute the charges. Be wary of any seller who demands payment through other methods; and if you don’t feel comfortable, trust your instincts.
- Be an educated consumer. Lookup the costs of puppies for the breed you are interested in adopting or purchasing. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deep discount, it is probably too good to be true.
- Don’t take the seller’s claims on face value. Visit bbb.org to verify an online breeder/seller’s reputation. Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder for references and contact past customers.
- Consider adopting or buying locally. Visit your local shelter and see if rescuing a dog (or cat) may be a viable option. This way, you can meet the dog or cat in need of a forever home.
At least this story has happy ending
Today, Beaulieu has two new pups — 4-month-old Milo and 12-week-old Apple. She bought them through the American Kennel Club.
And while there are lots of lessons to be learned from her story, she is not alone. You can learn more about how to avoid pet scams here.
Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.