Barking up the wrong tree

Online puppy scams take a big bite out of buyers in Texas, says study

Online puppy scams take a big bite out of buyers in Texas, says study

Ken Hoffman new puppy Citizens for Animal Protection
Don't fall victim to an online puppy scam. Help clear the local shelters instead. Photo by Getty Images

Your kids are begging for a puppy as a holiday gift, so you scour the internet for the perfect pet. That internet search could land you in the doghouse, though. Texas ranks second among the states with the most online puppy-selling scams.

Veterinarians.org review of Better Business Bureau scam data from January 1 to October 31 uncovered 242 puppy scams in Texas, second only to California (345). Given that California and Texas are the biggest states in terms of population, it’s not surprising that these two states top the list.

What is eye-opening, however, is the amount of money — $913.20 per incident — lost in Texas puppy scams reported to the Better Business Bureau. Michigan ranked first in that category ($1,097 per scam). Many of these scams happen on online platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, according to Veterinarians.org.

From January 1 to October 31, Texas victims “collectively lost over $220,000 to puppy scams, with many victims finding themselves conned out of several thousand dollars in certain instances,” Veterinarians.org says.

In nearly all cases, puppy scammers direct buyers to send a deposit through a wire transfer or through an app like Cash App or Zelle, but then the seller never produces a pooch, according to Veterinarians.org. In these situations, it’s practically impossible to obtain a refund because the sender already has authorized the cash transfer and it can’t be canceled.

“In light of current search trends when it comes to puppies for sale, and the popularity of seeking animal companionship during the pandemic, online puppy scams may continue to be an issue across the U.S.,” Veterinarians.org warns. “However, individuals and families can protect themselves from scams by making themselves aware of the typical warning signs of a scam, and by adopting through an animal shelter, rescue group, or AKC-certified reputable breeder.”

To that end, the Fort Worth Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT) are hosting a two-day MEGA Adoption Event on Saturday and Sunday, December 18-19, from 10 am to 6 pm each day at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, Cattle Barn No. 1. Admission is free.

The goal of the MEGA Adoption Event is to find forever and loving homes for more than 1,000 pets, organizers say. 

All adoptable dogs and cats have been spayed or neutered, microchipped, and have received rabies and age-appropriate vaccinations. Every dog or cat adopter will receive a free initial veterinary visit with a participating local vet and a 30-day trial of pet insurance, they say.

“Once again, our animal shelter campuses are full,” says Tim Morton, assistant Code Compliance director with oversight of the Fort Worth Animal Shelter, in a statement. “We have some great animals that need to be adopted into their own loving family. This event is a perfect opportunity to do that as there will be nearly 1,000 pets at the event. Families can view all the pets at the same time, as well as have the opportunity to visit with them one on one.”

For more information, visit the website.