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How to avoid dodgy pet breeders and spot a scammer

The warning signs to look for when you're purchasing a pet

Aussies love pets. And if there's one good thing that's come out of this pandemic, is that so many people have become pet parents during isolation.

Unfortunately, Aussies (already doing it tough) have lost over $1.6million to puppy scammers taking advantage of the puppy buying boom. It's a cruel blow to many families who are expecting to add a new fur baby to their family, only to work out they've lost money and have no pet in return.

And it can happen to anyone.

Many scammers have been doing this for years (sadly, it's not a new thing) and have everything set up so well; it's hard to spot the difference between a legit dealer or a dodgy one.

Buying a new pet is an emotional decision, and scammers know this

It's a super exciting time when you're looking for a new fur baby to add to your family. You see pictures of tiny puppies or kittens, and you're instantly in love, getting all goo-goo over them. And if you've got kids, you'll be drawn in by their excitement too.

Scammers know this and, as a result, will be using the most adorable pictures they can find. They know how to tap into your emotions and say all the right things to suck you in.

The best thing to do (although it's hard!) is to keep your emotions in check and go with logic. Do your research. Look for reputable breeders. Each state will have a list of registered breeders you can check. Try the Master Dog Breeders and Associates if you're looking for a purebred dog.

As a word of warning: The most common breeds reported to be the work of scammers are Cavoodles and French Bulldogs.

How do pet scammers operate?

Everything is being done online. The most common scammer sites are Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace.

Scammers have everything set up perfectly online and take advantage of the lockdowns. They know you can't travel to meet the puppy in person.

Here's how they usually operate:

  • Replicate a genuine breeders ad, steal photos, even descriptions and just have a different email address or phone number

  • Post online ads or use social to post to draw buyers in

  • Ask for up-front payment via a money transfer

  • Offer to transport the pet to you

You'll find scammers will often come back to you, asking for more money as the 'cost of transportation is higher due to COVID restrictions'.

Then after they've received your money, they'll vanish. You're left with a gaping hole in your bank account, no pet to show for it, and a broken-hearted family.

So, how can you avoid getting scammed?

Although it's hard with all of the lockdowns, it's best to wait if you're looking at investing your money in a purebred (or any pet).

Breeders should be open to you visiting and meeting the parents of your pet. While you're there, look how the animals are cared for – are their spaces clean, are they happy and healthy? Are they exercised regularly, and are they socialised?

You want to make sure you avoid puppy farmers, as you'll find these puppies come with a range of psychological and health issues. Ethical breeders will do everything in their power to look after their animals and will have given them loads of human attention.

When you do pick up your puppy, you should receive the following bits of paper:

  • Microchip certificate

  • Record of worming, flea and tick treatments

  • Vaccination record

  • The parent's pedigree papers (if you've bought a legit purebred)

What to do if you think you've been scammed by a fake dog breeder

If you get a suspicion that your puppy and the breeder has disappeared, the first thing you should do is contact your bank. Explain the situation and ask if there's any way they can recall your money.

You should then report the scam to the ACCC through their Scam Watch website. This website will direct you on how to make a report and where you can get help.

And here's a quick reminder of my pet services

If you're planning a hopeful holiday for the Christmas/New Year break, I suggest booking in my pet sitting or walking services early. It's better to have your place booked and cancel if we're locked down than miss out on a place.

Take care and pat your fur babies from me.


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