UK (BUT MAYBE ELSEWHERE TOO): I’m going to think aloud. These are some thoughts about avoiding being scammed when buying a dog or cat from a breeder. Why am I doing this? You may have heard that there has been a massive upsurge in scams operated by unscrupulous people who pose as breeders of mainly dogs. Selling dogs has become very profitable. In the UK, there’s been a 3.2 million upsurge in adoptions of companion animals during the coronavirus pandemic. There is a lot of money in those 3.2 million companion animals. There has been a massive change in dog ownership in the UK. A lot of newbie dog owners struggling to cope after the Covid lockdown.
The criminals have seen an opportunity. And in The Times there is a story about the way gangs use fake families in scams to sell sick puppies. They don’t care how well or how ill their puppies are. They just want to sell them, move the merchandise to unsuspecting people who desperately want to adopt a dog or cat. The most popular are French bulldogs which are inherently unhealthy because of their shortened muzzles. That’s another problem!
What they do
These gangs operate puppy mills where the dogs are treated cruelly and the puppies are sick. They are sometimes unsocialised and often after adoption they have to be treated heavily at a veterinary clinic and sometimes, they are put down; highly distressing to their new owners.
In order to present to the world that they are bona fide breeders they rent or acquire a nice looking home and place in that home a pretend family. This is an entirely fake family with kids, mother and father and a male and female dog and the puppies for sale. They’re pretending that they are a good breeder.
They insist that the buyer comes around to see the puppies to give the impression that they are decent people. But they don’t disclose their full address. They disclose their postcode and when you get near to the place, they direct you in. When you get inside, they might show you the puppies’ mother but she is not the true mother and therefore there are no signs that she has been the mother.
They might not show you the father of the puppies because perhaps he is not there. They will show documentation but it is fraudulently created. The vaccination certificates will be fakes. I guess every document they produce will be fakes.
What you should do
I would insist on being given the full address over the phone or better still on their website I would expect to see the full address. They hide the address in order to limit their liabilities. They don’t want to publicise where they are in order to hide, as best they can, their criminal activity.
As to the documents, I would read them and crosscheck with the veterinarian who vaccinated the dogs. I’d ring the vet there and then and find out whether they actually did vaccinate the puppies. That could be a key to unearthing the scam. If you can’t do this immediately, do it when you get home and don’t buy until it has been done.
I would insist on seeing the father AND the mother of the puppies. I would check that the mother appears to be the genuine mother through her breasts and nipples. There must be signs on the mother that she has been nursing the pups. And her behaviour should support that evidence. Does she approach the puppies as if she is their mother? Does she interact with the puppies as if she is their mother?
Another thing that you might consider doing is to have a veterinarian check the health of the puppy that you wish to adopt before handing over the money. If you request that and they refuse then I would suggest that it’s a sign that they are running a scam.
These steps might seem too involved. However, if you are paying £3,000 as you might well do today for a puppy, I don’t think they are. Prices have gone to the roof because of supply and demand. The marketplace in puppies is hot and the criminals are taking advantage of it. There’s more money in selling sick puppies than there is in burglary.
These are top of the head thoughts. You may have some better ideas. The bottom line is to check every aspect of the sale. Dig deep and don’t accept anything on face value.
Please tell me if you have been the victim of a scam and what you would do to avoid being scammed in the future.