For pet lovers, nothing is more frustrating – or heartbreaking – than the fact that puppy and kitten scams just won’t go away. This deplorable situation gets even worse around the holidays, or anytime you want to add a fuzzy new four-legged family member. Or, during the season of giving, you want to rescue a pet in need. That’s why puppy and kitten scams air straight to your heart.
The ugly truth, however, is that they are nothing more than a sleazy way to steal your money.
The Federal Trade Commission reports they receive tens of thousands of complaints each year about online puppy and kitten scams. Tens of thousands. And according to the Better Business Bureau, the problem this holiday season is even worse than usual.
Protect Yourself, and Your Wallet
Shopping online for a pet is the pathway to problems, unless all you’re doing is looking up information about your local shelter or rescue group. Why? The internet is where puppy and kitten scams happen. Online ads and social media posts are typical.
There’s always a photo of the pet being offered – too cute for words. You can feel yourself holding that soft, warm puppy to your heart. Or hearing that kitten purring. There’s a story, too. The owner is bereft because they’ve lost their home and cannot keep the animal. The kitten was dumped in a parking lot. Anything that will bring a tear to your eye. You simply have to help!
Alas, the animal is not in your locale, but it can be shipped. All you have to do is wire the money, and this adorable pet will be on his way.
Your first mistake? Falling for this scam. It’s not hard -- these people are very good at creating these fake scenarios, and hijacking photos of real kittens and puppies from other sources. Your next mistake – and this is the biggie – wiring that money. Once you do that, you cannot get it back. And, often, the scammers will double-up, saying there’s a medical issue or crate problem that requires just one more monetary contribution from you.
No. No. No.
Perform a Real Rescue
Shelters are full of all sorts of animals, not only dogs and cats and puppies and kittens, but hamsters and guinea pigs, ferrets and bunnies and, sometimes, even birds. Many dogs are mixed breeds, but a surprising number are full-blooded. So whether you want a pet that fits in a teacup or something the size of a Mastiff or Malamute, always check your local shelters first.
Where else can you find a match made in heaven? Breed-specific rescue groups. If you have your heart set on a specific type of dog, there’s a group for that. Just look online for the group nearest you.
What doesn’t count as a “rescue”? Buying a puppy or kitten from a pet store. The vast majority of these poor little creatures come from “breeders” who force animals into repeated pregnancies so the puppies or kittens can be sold at a profit. Usually, the animals live in appalling conditions.
If you’ve started looking for a new pet, you may have noticed that reputable pet stores – well-known chains as well as locally owned businesses – no longer participate in this awful cycle. Instead, they partner with shelters and rescue groups to host meet-and-greet events. That helps connect animals who are truly in need of a home with a family that will cherish them every day for the rest of their life. Hot dog! That’s a tail-wagger all around.
Take It Slowly at First
Animal welfare experts used to recommend against adopting a pet during the holidays, because it can be such a chaotic time. But most now say that the benefits of adopting – for the humans in your family as well as for your new furry friend – outweigh potential drawbacks. So, we say go for it! Close your eyes to those nasty scams -- just keep reminding yourself that every detail is made-up, no matter how irresistible the photo and story may be.
Adopting a new puppy or kitten (or an older pet) is exciting, indeed. But it represents a big change for the animal as well as your existing household. They need time to adjust to their new surroundings. And even though you want to cuddle and play with them endlessly, babies need lots of rest. Even baby dogs and cats.
By next year, you and your furry companion will be ready to go visiting for the holidays. Just remember to mind your petiquette.