Puppy scams on the rise: What to be aware of before purchasing a new pet

Problem Solvers

THORNTON, Colo. (KDVR) — Sheryl Slankard thought she would have a goldendoodle puppy in time for the holidays when she sent thousands of dollars to a breeder in Utah. That puppy never made it to her home and likely doesn’t even exist.

“Most of the breeders that I found locally had waitlists of up to two years to get a puppy. I went online to try to find a doodle,” Slankard said.

Her search brought her to the website, “TheDoodlesKennel.com,” advertising puppies that matched exactly what she was looking for. Slankard said the website listed positive reviews, contact information and even photos of the breeder’s family. She thought it was legitimate.

Slankard paid $1,300 through the online payment app Zelle for a puppy named Angie, but the costs didn’t stop there. The seller asked for $2,000 for a crate to ship the puppy, which Slankard paid, then another $2,000 for insurance.

“That’s when I said ‘no, that’s not right. I don’t have any more money, I cant send you money.’ And they told me to just go buy a gift card from Walmart for $2,000 and then they would refund me the money once she gets here,” Slankard said.

That’s when she started to realize this was a scam. Slankard eventually lost contact with the seller. She never received the puppy or the $3,300 she paid.

“I was humiliated that it happened. I haven’t actually told a lot of people because I’m so embarrassed about what I did,” Slankard said.

According to the Better Business Bureau, these “puppy scams” are on the rise. According to Scam Tracker, reports for these types of scams in Colorado have quadrupled since before the pandemic. In 2019, just 22 were reported, compared to 110 in 2020 and 97 so far this year.

“Unfortunately, it has become very common, especially with the pandemic. People are at home, they have much more time to dedicate to a furry companion,” Keylen Villagrana said, a spokesperson with BBB Great West + Pacific.

Villagrana said there are easy ways consumers can protect themselves when purchasing a pet through a breeder online.

  • Know the average price of the puppy you’re interested in to avoid prices that are too good to be true.
  • Know what company the breeder is using to ship the dog and look their certification through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Ask to do a video call with the breeder and the puppy.
  • Check for complaints with the BBB.
  • Get something in writing detailing all costs and fees for the puppy.

“A legitimate breeder is going to work with you and they’re going to be aware of the fees that might potentially come,” Villagrana said.

Slankard was able to find another puppy through a local source. She said their new dog, Callie, is a silver lining to this unfortunate situation.

“When had things happen we just have to grow from it. I will never let this happen again and I want the message to get out so other people don’t let it happen to them,” Slankard said.

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