Officials Warn Of Spike In Puppy Scams During Pandemic

husky puppy
By WWJ Newsradio 950

(WWJ) If you're home a lot more these days, it may be the perfect time to get a puppy.

But be cautious. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Humane Society of the United States are urging the public to be wary of puppy scams as many people seek to purchase or adopt dogs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Given the increased number of those staying at home during the ongoing public health emergency, many are turning to the internet to adopt a furry friend for companionship. The Michigan Department of Attorney General has seen a surge in complaints of internet scammers exploiting this situation.

Several Michiganders have recently been tricked into paying for pets that do not exist. And, because these thieves are often outside the country, the prospects of getting money back are extremely low.

"Scammers are looking for any way to take advantage of consumers during this pandemic and puppies are unfortunately not exempt,” Nessel said, in a news release. 

“While many people may be eager to bring home a puppy during this time, I urge Michiganders to be vigilant in their search to avoid being scammed. My office continues to prioritize protecting residents from predatory and deceptive business practices, and these puppy scams will ultimately result in heartbreak and financial loss. Always do your homework before making any purchase online to avoid being taken advantage of.”  

Sometimes, officials say, scammers will advertise puppies for sale that don't even exist. In other scams, sellers will charge exorbitant fees, using the virus as a reason to allow in-person visits beforehand. 

Since 2018, the Michigan AG's Office says it's received nearly 50 complaints of alleged puppy scams — and 26 of the complaints came in this year alone. 

“Taking advantage of Michiganders by exploiting our love of animals is as cruel to the people as it is to the dogs. We are very grateful to General Nessel’s office for taking this issue seriously,” said Molly Tamulevich, Michigan State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Each year, consumers in the U.S. spend more than $1 billion buying puppies without realizing they may be doing business with scammers, puppy mill operators or both. Puppy mills are inhumane, dog breeding operations that keep dogs in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions and, depending on location, many are not regulated or inspected. Breeders hide their poor conditions by meeting buyers at offsite locations or selling through pet stores or online. 

If you want to avoid getting a puppy mill puppy, avoid pet stores. The AG says almost all pet store puppies come from puppy mills, while the stores pretend to be boutiques with purebreds or “designer” mixed breeds. 

The AG's Office recommends these best practices to help consumers avoid falling victim to puppy scams: 

  • Research the breed 
  • Research the breeder 
  • Research the advertised puppy 
  • Do not purchase a puppy sight-unseen 
  • Use a credit card to make the purchase
  • Retain all documents and communications from the breeder
  • Consider contacting your local shelter

The takeaway here: Remain hyper-vigilant when purchasing a puppy, especially online. 

Get more tips and information about avoiding puppy scams HERE

Michigan consumers who believe they have been a victim of a puppy scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team online AT THIS LINK.