Online “Pet Stores” – 4 Scams to Watch Out For

A few months ago we told you about what you can do to support the ending of puppy mills and raise awareness of how to find a good breeder. Pet stores in many states are slowly feeling the pressure to stop selling animals like they are objects. Some states are taking action and passing laws geared towards protecting pets, putting pressure on puppy mills and backyard breeders to either shape up or shut down, and educating the public about how to find a healthy, well-bred pet.

Even if all the puppy mills and pet stores selling puppies and kittens (not to mention exotic animals that do not belong in homes as pets) closed up shop tomorrow, however, the problem wouldn’t end there.

The explosion of internet businesses includes online “pet stores” that will “ship” you a pet or meet you to exchange cash for your new companion. There are also scams online where you can “buy” a pet that may actually have been stolen.

On to the Crime Complaint Center, hundreds of files deal with people who were scammed when buying a pet online. While there are some great breeders online, none of them will ship you a pet. They will require you come to them, meet them, meet the animal, and sign a contract. Breeders may advertise online but they will not make the transaction online.

If you’ve looked online for a new pet you need to be aware of some of the common scams that puppy mill breeders and other bad sellers use:

1: AKC Registered

AKC does provide registry for purebred dogs and cats but it does not mean the pets are from reputable breeders. Being registered means nothing past the fact that the parents were purebreds and registered. There are some AKC standards but they do not restrict puppy mills from producing AKC registered dogs.

2: Sanctuaries

While some dogs are in rescue groups and sanctuaries, not all who claim they are such organizations are telling the truth. Sad but true. Some puppy mills will create a website and advertise themselves as a rescue group or other life-saving pet place. The scam can often be detected when the amount of “donation” they are asking for is revealed, asking for amounts that exceed $1,000 at times. Real rescue groups ask for money to cover the cost of the care they have provided the animals and can also prove that they are a real organization and not a puppy mill.

3: Bait and Switch

A pet website may show pics of healthy, happy, and playful pets. The pet that you are actually sent is not any of the ones depicted in the photos. The photos tend to be stock photos. Most, if not all, of the transaction is done via email and there is no phone number to call and speak to someone or if there is a number, no one ever picks up the phone. Scammers in this scenario are banking on the fact that the dog or cat you have in your possession will tug at your heart strings and you’ll keep it to nurse it back to health instead of demanding a refund or sending the pet back.

4: “Last One” deals

Advertisements that tell you that the pet they have is the last one of the bunch or that they are an owner who must move, need to be handled with care. If the person cannot provide proof of vaccines records, information about the other dogs, or anything that makes them accountable or transparent chances are this dog was stolen. An owner will or should have contact information for the vet they have used, be able to tell you the personality, history, and health of the pet as well as be willing to meet you face to face and spend some time together. Some owners won’t ask for money as they just want or need to rehome their pet. If an ad asks for money and just seems suspicious, chances are it is a scam.

When thinking about adding a pet to your home, check your local shelter, look at sites such as and ask a ton of questions for your peace of mind. Never get a pet that you haven’t met in person. Think about adoption as your first option!

Photo courtesy of Krotz via Wikimedia Commons

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One thought on “Online “Pet Stores” – 4 Scams to Watch Out For

  1. It’s really very sad that we have to be so cautious about adopting a pet these days. How awful for these poor, innocent animals to have to be put through such horrific living conditions such as puppy mills and backyard breeders. I find it hard to believe that these people have no heart or compassion for these animals and that they only care about making the almighty dollar. Such greed has created so many heartless people.
    There are so many homeless pets looking for a forever home. Please open your hearts up to these animals and look to adopt from a shelter or a reputable rescue organization. Do an online research of the place before you adopt. Make sure that you are not supporting those horrific people who are only looking to make money off of an dog or a cat. We have to be the voice for these defenseless animals. Let’s all do something to help shut down puppy mills and backyard breeders.