It’s a sad reality, but there’s a lot of cases of potential pet owners getting scammed online. Looking for a new forever-friend often leads people to think with their hearts before their heads. Next thing you know, you’re attracted so much to the thought of a new precious puppy or kitten that you’re wiring cash to a random in the Caribbean who’s merely showing you pictures they ripped from iStock.
Alas, these scams are well documented. All in all, there are good and easy ways to ensure that, if you decide to buy a pet online, you don’t get caught in any metaphorical (and, occasionally, physical) bear traps.
ENSURE THE SELLER IS RELIABLE
This is where your intuition kicks in. Are they asking you questions? Do they get offended if you ask questions? Do they volunteer a phone number and other contact details easily? Do they know which breed you are enquiring about; most legitimate breeders only have a one litter available at any one time. These are all things you should be asking when you start searching for a new pet.
Also: cross-check everything. Most known scams are pretty unoriginal, and will repeat stuff like wording and photos across a variety of ads. Doing a backwards Google image search (where you upload a picture to Google to find visual matches) is a great way to sort the scammers from the legitimate businesses.
ASK FOR REFERENCES
Most legitimate breeders will have a list of past clients available as references. It’s not too much to ask about past buyers and their experiences. Again, if they deny you, or try and change the subject, it’s another red flag in regards to their reliability. In addition, they’ve more than likely made themselves known to their local animal services in the past, such as vets and the RSPCA. It’s worth giving them a call as well.
ASK FOR A VARIETY OF PHOTOS
Scammers and fakers will usually post (or, rather, steal) one picture and use it for their entire ad. It’s in this instance that you should ask for more pictures. Try asking for pictures of the pet at different ages, from a variety of angles, or even just next to a card with your name and the date on it.
ASK TO SEE VET RECORDS
Even if all of the previous points add up, the pet may be bred with pre-existing health issues, such as inbreeding issues and exaggerated features that can cause health defects as they get older. Ask to see health records of both the pet your are interested in and the pet’s mother. On top of this, you should definitely book in a vet appointment with your new furry pal within 24 hours of picking them up, to ensure they’ve been given to you in tip top shape.
BE CAREFUL WITH FREE CLASSIFIED SITES
Sites like Gumtree, Craigslist, Instagram, and Facebook are metaphorical double-edged swords when it comes to buying things. They’re easy to find and buy anything, but also full of potential threats lurking in the gallows to steal your money, personal details or more. Be extra wary when perusing sites like these. If in doubt, ask to visit the breeding facility yourself, to ensure that the place is reputable and not an irresponsible breeder or puppy mill.
IF IT’S BELOW MARKET VALUE, RUN
Get to know how much your chosen pet and breed is currently worth. Most reputable breeders keep their prices within a set range. Likewise, if it appears to be a bargain, there might be something fishy happening in the background you don’t know about. Simply, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
GET A CONTRACT WRITTEN UP
A good breeder will have a contract written up, that includes protection for both the new owner (you) and the breeder (them). Things like a set cooling-off period, and a guarantee of good health. This should also include the aforementioned veterinary health records.
ONLY PAY FACE-TO-FACE
If that ask you to wire cash prior to inspecting their facility or seeing the dog IRL, then you should run, quickly. Always pay face to face. Even if a service like PayPal is their “preferred” method of payment, everyone has phones now. There’s really no excuse.
Most pounds around the country are often hitting capacity, and there are a tonne of pets great and small in pounds that needs a forever home. Yes, it may not be your cup of tea, and you may not get the exact breed you want. But, as with all pets you will get a friend for life.
And isn’t that what matters most?