Bogus online breeders selling sick dogs - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports


Bogus online breeders selling sick dogs

A lot of people turn to the Internet to search for a new pet, especially rare dog breeds -- but buyer beware.

Scammers and bad news breeders have picked up on the trend and are now costing families hundreds of dollars and immeasurable heartbreak.

That's what happened to Joy White, who set out on a mission to find a precious new puppy.

"Everything seemed perfect," White says.

Unfortunately, what happened to her turned into any prospective pet owner's nightmare.

White wanted a new puppy, and like thousands of other people, she found a picture and a profile on a breeder's website of the puppy she wanted. The cute little bundle of fur was advertised at a steep discount.

On the Internet, phone and paper, everything appeared legitimate. There was even a contract outlining a full refund if the puppy arrived in bad shape, and a clean bill of health containing stickers, dates and all.

White drove several hours to Tennessee to meet the breeder in the parking lot of a national retail store, but the transaction, she recalls, seemed a bit rushed.

White handed the breeder a MoneyGram, and the breeder immediately handed White a rather quiet Maltese. On the drive back to White's home in North Carolina, she said the puppy stopped moving.

"She knew that the puppy was on its last limb of life," White says.

After spending hundreds of dollars on emergency veterinary care, a few hours later, the veterinarian called White to inform her the Maltese had passed away.

Neither White nor her new puppy had even made it home that day.

Melanie Kahn is the Senior Director of the Puppy Mills Campaign at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) located in Washington, DC. She says HSUS receives hundreds of similar complaints every year.

"Countless consumers tell us that their puppies have arrived sick or dead," Kahn says. 

Like most other scammers, the breeder with which White was dealing completely disappeared.

"To this day, I have yet to ever talk to the breeder," White said.

According to the HSUS, the Internet has allowed substandard breeders to hide behind beautiful websites and make outrageous claims to consumers that are simply false.

Federal law does not regulate breeders that sell directly to the public via the Internet.

Without a license or inspection, HSUS warns that puppies are often raised on filthy, disease-ridden, backyard breeding grounds.

Any simple computer program can create a convincing contract, and the HSUS says any bogus breeder is one who doesn't ask you to visit the kennel.

"Responsible breeders have nothing to hide. Puppy mill operators have everything to hide," Kahn points out.

For buyers, that means actually going to the facility to see where and how the dogs are bred and raised before taking possession of a new pooch.

"The fact of the matter is, responsible breeders care where their puppies are going, so they simply do not sell puppies to people they have not met," Kahn says. 

At a local kennel, White finally found another puppy she named "Cupcake." She might be the country's most pampered pooch.

White found Cupcake's breeder by talking to other people who had purchased their pet from the same person.

Puppies are not like online products. So instead of counting on a return receipt and cash on delivery, count on doing plenty of homework on the breeder and plan on making a payment after meeting the pup and the people who raised it. 

Additional Information:

  • If you are scammed by a puppy breeder, report the incident to your local humane society and your local chapter of the Better Business Bureau.
  • Bogus online breeders often use fancy terms like: certified kennel, AKC registered, pedigree, health certified. (
  • Under the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), commercial breeders selling directly to pet stores must be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. However, the AWA does not regulate breeders that sell directly to the public. The AWA was passed in 1966, prior to the Internet boom. Lawmakers couldn't foresee that commercial breeders would someday have the ability to sell directly to the public via the Internet. (
  • According to a recent ASPCA survey, 89 percent of all "breeders" selling over the Internet are unlicensed by USDA.
  • Be wary of "The Bait and Switch" selling technique where the website depicts dozens of photos of healthy puppies which are actually stock photos or stolen photos. The scam is revealed when the dog is delivered and the buyer is faced not with the adorable puppy from the photos, but a sickly dog and often with a different color or markings. Scammers count on people feeling guilty or compassionate and choosing not to send the puppy back. (
  • The "Free to Good Home" tactic involves the breeder posting a sad story of having to find homes for their pure-bred puppies immediately. Victims are offered a puppy free of charge, and asked only to pay the shipping fee—usually about $400. Buyers are asked to send all payments via a Western Union wire transfer or money order. These methods are favorites among scam artists because they are the equivalent of sending cash—the money can't be recovered by the victim. This scam is particularly heartbreaking because there is no real dog involved! Victims usually arrive at the airport to pick up their new puppy, only to find that they have been scammed. (
  • Be cautious about buying a puppy that is AKC-Registered. AKC registry is a service provided by the American Kennel Club. While many people believe AKC registration means their puppies came from reputable breeders, being AKC-registered means nothing more than your puppy's parents both had AKC papers. While there are some AKC regulations, they do not restrict puppy mills from producing AKC-registered dogs. (
  • Always check references, including others who have purchased pets from a breeder and the veterinarian the breeder works with.
    -Be sure to deal directly with a breeder, not a broker.
    -Never send Western Union or money order payments.
    -Always visit the breeder's facility. Reputable breeders and rescue groups will be more than happy to offer you a tour.
    -If you are told that there will be no refunds for a sick puppy, you are most probably dealing with a puppy mill. A reputable breeder or rescue group will always take the puppy back, regardless of the reason.
    -Always pick your puppy up at the kennel. Do not have the puppy shipped or meet at a random location. (

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