Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Pet Scams

Are you planning a puppy or kitten purchase or adoption in the new year? Here’s how to make sure your experience is safe and scam-free

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Puppies and kittens can steal our hearts, but that’s not the type of theft going around these days. The Better Business Bureau reported earlier this month that the increased demand for pets has been accompanied by a rise in online pet scams, such as pets never being delivered after the buyer pays for them.

One would-be buyer wrote us: “I got scammed last week out of $850 for a golden retriever puppy.” A couple in Philadelphia lost $1,450 after trying to buy a puppy from a website using photos of puppies stolen from social media. And grandparents in Edmond, Oklahoma, were scammed out of $1,600 when they tried to buy a kitten for their grandchildren for Christmas. Frequently, the same animal is “sold” to multiple buyers, none of whom receive their pet.

Fraudulent listings often include popular breeds such as Yorkshire terriers and French bulldogs. Kittens and parrots are also bait in scam attempts. According to Federal Trade Commission data, scams involving kittens have more than doubled since 2017. Cats and kittens account for 12% of pet scam complaints to the BBB. The FTC also received 185 reports of parrots being ordered but not delivered during the first half of 2020. Losses for this year are projected to be $3.1 million, according to the BBB.

Pets of any age are already at a premium this year because so many people have adopted animals during the pandemic. While it’s possible to find a reputable dog, cat or parrot breeder through an online search, this adage applies: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Next-day delivery? Red flag. Low, low price? Red flag. Puppies or kittens always available? Red flag. Rare color or extra-tiny or “champion bloodlines”? Red flags.

Adding to the quandary is that many responsible breeders have postponed litters because of the pandemic. It may be that fewer pets are available in 2021 or waitlists from breeders may be longer.

What should you look for to protect your own health and the health of your wallet, and ensure that you’re getting a healthy pet from a reputable source? Here are eight tips.

-- Beware of sellers who provide pets immediately with no vetting of buyers.

-- Ask to see video and photos of babies from birth on, in the presence of the seller. Scammers are unlikely to agree to live video meetings because they don’t actually have the animals they’re selling.

-- If you’re adopting from a shelter or rescue group, go with a local organization that has safe visitation protocols. Online adoption organizations that offer to ship pets, that frequently have puppies or purebreds available, or that add on fees after you’ve agreed to adopt may be scammers in disguise.

-- Be wary of people offering pets “free if you pay for shipping” or who are offering pets through free sites such as Craigslist or Facebook.

-- Get the seller’s full name, phone number and mailing address, then search that information with the word “scam” or “complaint.”

-- See if the photo of the pet has been stolen from someone else’s website by doing a reverse image search and searching for a distinctive phrase in the description.

-- Never buy or adopt from someone who requests payment in the form of gift cards or via wire transfers, both of which are nonrefundable, or through mobile payment apps such as Zelle or CashApp.

-- Research the average price of dog or cat breeds or parrot species you’re interested in. Sellers offering animals at deep discounts may be trying to scam you.

For more information, see the BBB’s ScamTracker at bbb.org/scamtracker. Check petscams.com to see if a seller has been reported as fraudulent. Report fraud to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Q&A

Can my dog

donate blood?

Q: I’m a regular blood donor to the Red Cross, and I’m curious if there are blood donor programs for dogs, too.

A: As with humans, blood transfusions can keep dogs alive after trauma, illness or surgery. Dogs may need red blood cells in the event of severe blood loss or chronic anemia; fresh-frozen plasma to treat or control bleeding disorders such as von Willebrand’s disease; or plasma proteins and globulins to treat illnesses or infections such as pancreatitis or parvovirus.

Some large veterinary hospitals keep donor animals “on staff.” These may be pets belonging to staff members or to clients who are willing to bring their animals in to donate as needed. Commercial pet blood banks are another source of blood for sick or injured dogs.

Dogs have eight different blood types, known as Dog Erythrocyte Antigens, or DEA. DEA 4 is considered to be universal.

Every veterinary hospital or blood bank has specific requirements for canine donors, but usually donor dogs must be 1 to 7 years old; weigh 50 pounds or more; be free of Lyme disease, ehrlichia or any other condition that could be passed on through a blood transfusion; on heartworm preventive; shorthaired; and up to date on vaccinations. They should have a calm temperament and be comfortable with handling. Short-snouted breeds such as bulldogs and pugs aren’t good candidates, but any other breed or mix who meets screening criteria can potentially help to save another dog’s life.

In the same way that the Red Cross hands out cookies and juice to humans after they donate, donor dogs receive lots of treats, petting and attention before, during and after their red-blooded contribution. If you’d like to sign up your dog to be a donor, talk to your veterinarian about whether your dog has the right stuff. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

Make resolutions

that include pets

-- What are your pet-related New Year’s resolutions? We have five suggestions that are easy, fun and will give you the warm fuzzies in the coming year. 1. Respond more often to your pet’s invitations to play. 2. Take more pictures of your pet, including selfies of the two of you (you’ll cherish the memories). 3. Teach your dog tricks or to do a fun, easy sport such as rally or nosework (you could even try to earn a title, just for fun). 4. Make some homemade pet treats together. 5. Brush your pet’s teeth or use dental wipes on them daily.

-- In millions of households worldwide this year, animals have provided much-needed comfort to people via cuddles, pats and a constant physical presence. A new study published by University of South Australia researchers in the Journal of Behavioural Economics for Policy points to the lifesaving role pets played in 2020, when human-human contact could be life-endangering. Lead author Dr. Janette Young says physical touch is a sense that was often taken for granted or overlooked until COVID-19 came along. “Humans have an innate need to connect with others, but in the absence of human touch, pets are helping to fill this void,” she says, adding that hospitals, hospices and care facilities should be encouraging pet connections with residents. “Residential aged care is yet to recognize the value of human-animal relationships. Had more pets been living with their owners in aged care when COVID-19 restrictions were applied, it could have helped people immeasurably,” she says.

-- Finches are charming avian companions who chatter and sometimes sing. They aren’t hands-on birds and would prefer you to keep your distance, but some will learn to perch on a finger. They need spacious horizontal cages and do best in the company of other finches. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.