Pet Adoption Scams

Dec 12, 2020

Is this cute puppy available for adoption? 
Credit Kim Alaniz [Flickr]

Some internet pet sellers are legitimate, but scammers often use available online photos (like the one shown here) to lure you in.   If you want a specific breed, statistics show 1 of every 4 shelter dogs is a purebred.  So be a hero, and adopt a new best friend from your local animal shelter or rescue group.

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Reports of pet adoption fraud are on the rise this year. Like many, you may be considering adopting a pet during the pandemic.

It sure seems like the perfect Christmas present for you and your family. And your search for just the right one may have you checking the internet. As with any online transactions, the old adage applies: buyer beware.

So what should you do when you see a puppy or kitten on a webpage for, say, a pet rescue group? How can you be sure the pet is really available for adoption, and not just a cute face that serves as “click-bait” for an eager adopter?

If the pet is offered by a shelter or rescue group, check to see if they list on Petfinder. Most legitimate pet adoption organizations use Petfinder, because it is free to shelters and rescue groups.

If the seller is local, always ask to see the pet, in person. This is a good idea, anyway, to make sure the animal’s nature is compatible with yours. If your family is high energy, you don’t want a laid-back pet – or vice versa. Ask why the pet is available for adoption, does it have any health issues or behavioral problems, and expect to answer questions about your reason for adopting a pet, and about your family and lifestyle. A caring adopter will want to make sure you can and will care for the animal.

If the seller is not local, ask to see a picture of the pet with a specific item, like today’s newspaper, or a tennis ball. Never pay for the pet with cash, or a money order, or even a debit card. Use a credit card, in case you need to dispute the charges.

The Better Business Bureau reports the biggest increase in online shopping fraud this year is pet scams, more than three times the amount reported in previous years. Nothing would make Christmas more special than having a furry friend to share it with you. And nothing would ruin Christmas like becoming the victim of a scam, especially when you’re speaking of pets.

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