Consumer Alert: Be Wary of Puppy Scams

Posted May 29, 2007 12:20 p.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2007 1:15 p.m. EDT

— The American Kennel Club and the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina are warning consumers about scams targeting unsuspecting puppy buyers.

Both the AKC and the BBB have recently received a number of reports from consumers throughout the nation who have lost money after responding to online or newspaper classified advertising. Commonly, the scammer, posing as a breeder, will place an ad offering free or inexpensive puppies. Communicating solely through emails, the scammer may claim to be affiliated with a religious organization or have the need to re-home a puppy because they are relocating to a foreign country.

“The consumer can be taken in by the sincerity of the scammer, who’ll say that they don’t care about money and just want to find a good home for their beloved puppies,” Beverly Baskin, president and chief executive of the BBB of Eastern N.C., said in a statement. “Then the fees for shipping the pet mount up and the consumer can lose hundreds of dollars before realizing they’ve been conned and will never get their puppy.”

“This is certainly not the only scam to be aware of, but it is a common one,” AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said. “Because of the emotional investment, consumers are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of when it comes to a cute, cuddly puppy than with any other purchase. A dog is a major investment -- a living, breathing being that will rely on you for 10 years or more. Take time to educate yourself on the hallmarks of a legitimate and responsible breeder.”

The AKC and BBB offer the following advice:

  • Do your research. Ask if the breeder is a member of an AKC-affiliated club and contact that club to verify membership. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau and the American Kennel Club to see if there are any complaints about the breeder.
  • Request references and speak to other people who have purchased dogs from this breeder—especially if the breeder does not live near you.
  • Beware of breeders who seem overly concerned with getting paid. Any reputable breeder will be far more concerned with the appropriateness of the potential pet home than what and when they are getting paid. Make sure you have clear expectations – ideally in writing – of how and when the pup will be paid for. Be especially wary of any breeder who insists that you wire money and who calls to ask for more money to be wired to cover last minute shipping fees.
  • Don’t be fooled by a slick Web site. Unscrupulous breeders and even outright scams can be represented by professional-looking Web sites that lure you in with fraudulent pictures of adorable puppies. At the very least speak with the breeder on the telephone and ideally meet the breeder, the puppy and the dam in person.
  • If you locate a breeder online, never send money without checking their references and credentials first. The AKC recommends that you first contact the national organization for the breed. It is essential to visit the breeder at their home to see the entire litter and the care and conditions given to the puppies prior to purchasing.
  • Take your time. Beware of breeders who claim to have multiple breeds ready to ship immediately. It’s highly unlikely that your perfect puppy will be available for shipping on the very day you call. Gestation and socialization of a litter takes months -- no puppy should be separated from the dam before eight weeks of age.

Report a scam.

Anyone who has experienced a dog-related scam should report it to their local authorities as well as their local BBB  to file a complaint. Consumers can also direct questions and concerns to AKC Customer Service at 919-233-9767, or e-mail

“If you are sure you are dealing with an actual breeder who has a dog to sell, there are still things to be aware of,” Peterson said. “If you expect the dog you are buying to be AKC-registrable, you must obtain documentation when you pick up the dog. Be wary of excuses such as ‘AKC hasn't sent the papers yet.’ If a breeder is doing his paperwork in a timely manner, there is no reason the AKC Dog Registration Application form should not be available, so wait until you receive it before you pay for and take home your puppy. Once you have completed the financial aspect of the transaction, there is little recourse for an unsatisfied buyer.”