Connecticut Puppy Scam Alert Issued

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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.

Adopt-A-Dog volunteer with dog for adoption.
As seen at Puttin’ On The Dog, 2017. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

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.

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California’s anti-puppy mill legislation goes to governor

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It all boils down to supply and demand. By passing A.B. 485, California lawmakers have demanded that puppy mills and similar operations no longer supply pet shops with companion animals.

Specifically the  legislation currently awaiting Gov. Gerry Brown’s signature takes aim at the unscrupulous breeders by ensuring that the pet stores can only acquire dogs, cats and rabbits from animal rescue groups, shelters and similar organizations.

A dog available for adoption at Adopt-a-Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

As reported by Newsweek, “The purpose of the bill is to encourage pet stores to move into the rescue business and to reduce the number of animals killed at shelters due to lack of space.”

According to the ASPCA:

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).
  • Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).

Data provided by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) indicates that most people who have cats got them from shelters, friends or family, while most people who have dogs got them from breeders or shelters.

Many pet stores are already providing another option for people seeking companion animals. As Newsweek reported, “Some pet stores, including PetCo and Petfood Express, have already moved away from selling cats, dogs, and rabbits bred for profit and instead donate space to rescues and host adoption events.” According to its website, PetSmart is also on board.

“At PetSmart, we never sell dogs or cats. Together with PetSmart Charities, we help save over 1,300 pets every day through adoption,” the company says. In all, PetSmart claims it has saved more than 7.6 million animals through its adoption program.

Of course, there are always two sides to every story. And apparently, the AKC is not a fan of A.B. 485.

“AB 485’s proponents misleadingly claim that the bill will promote the purchasing of purebred dogs from local breeders. That claim, however, fails to shed light on the fact that many local anti-breeding laws and breeding restrictions, also supported by these groups, have already eliminated hobby breeding and now make obtaining a specific type of dog bred by a local breeder increasingly difficult,” the AKC says.

However, A.B. 485 does not ban Californians from getting purebred pets if they so choose. It simply bans them from doing so through pet stores. If the bill becomes law, they would still be able to get companion animals by contacting private breeders directly.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Or will it do more harm than good? Let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

Suburban New York puppy mill law is a no-brainer

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What I’m about to say is hard to believe — but it’s true. Every once in a while, local, state (and even federal) lawmakers actually do something that makes sense.

In this case, lawmakers in the New York City suburbs — Westchester County, to be exact — are weighing the pros and cons of a so-called “puppy mill” law.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

You can read all about it here. For now I will just highlight the key points.

As it currently stands, the new law would:

  • Change current rules that “regulate animal facilities.”
  • Create tougher regulations pertaining to health standards for breeders and pet stores that sell puppies.
  • Ban any transactions involving puppies that were “raised in unhealthy and unsafe conditions.”

County Legislator Jim Maisano, a Republican driving the new legislation, sums it up this way:

“What we really want to do is impact the flow of puppy-mill dogs into Westchester. We want to stop it. So we’re raising the standards the Health Department will enforce to make sure (that), when dogs come into a pet dealer in Westchester County, that they’re not coming from the puppy mills.”

According to published reports, many communities in the county are already taking matters into their own hands. As a result, Mamaroneck, , New Rochelle, Mount Pleasant, Harrison, Yorktown, Rye Brook and Port Chester all have so-called “puppy mill” laws on the books.

Of course, there’s always another side of the story. So those who oppose the county’s efforts say the law currently being considered may have unintended consequences. Specifically, one pet shop owner says passage of the law as it now stands would harm his business by limiting where he can get dogs for his breeding program.

Animal advocates don’t buy that argument, however.

“Westchester is already on the map for making a statement against puppy-mill atrocities and, as a county, we can make that statement even larger,” said Dina Goren, who represents the Coalition for Legislative Action for Animals in the county. “We have the legal right and obligation to protect animals in our own community. Banning the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores altogether would do just that.”

I agree.