Let's talk about buying pets online. It isn't a terrible idea, if you can avoid the flood of online scammers waiting to take your money without handing over a puppy. If you're really set on a specific breed or don't have a shelter near you, keep these tips in mind so you don't get taken advantage of.
Image from cmartin82.
As with most online scams, if something seems too good to be true, it is. Trust your gut — if the seller is being fishy, move on, no matter how good the price is. Other signs you should look for:
- Asking for payment by money order or wire transfer: Scammers prefer you to pay them with these methods because they can get the money before you realise you've been tricked. Money orders and wire transfers also usually offer little protection to the sender and are hard to trace. Once you send the money, it is gone.
- Suspiciously low prices: Don't let a discounted price lure you in. If you're buying a purebred dog, do some research so you know what you should expect to pay (and what is too good of a deal).
- Refusing to let you meet the puppy before buying: A normal seller is OK either with you coming to meet the puppy or them meeting you to make sure you and the puppy get along. If the online seller won't let you meet, your spidey-sense should be tingling.
- Aggressive messages or threats: If you start to get suspicious and push the seller or are hesitant about closing the deal, they may get aggressive or threaten to report you for animal abuse in order to pressure you to pay.
- Odd results when you research the breeder online: Scammers might use a fake breeder name, or steal a name and puppy photos from a legit breeder. If a quick Google or Yelp search turns up sketchy results, move on to another seller.
With recent puppy scams in the US, sellers have targeted people who want to buy specific breeds, like Teacup Maltese or Shih Tzu. While having a certain breed is appealing, you're probably better off seeing what your local shelter has available. Think about what it is about a certain breed that you like — maybe they're low energy or are good with kids — and ask the shelter staff to help you find a dog with those traits. You'll stay away from online scammers, get a puppy with healthier genetics (inbreeding for certain traits can cause health problems in purebred dogs), and you'll know you haven't contributed to puppy mills.