You'd better ignore it. The American Kennel Club and the Council of Better Business Bureaus are warning consumers about a new e-mail scam that is conning people into spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on puppies that they actually never receive.
"Because of the emotional investment, consumers are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of when it comes to a cute, cuddly puppy than with any other purchase," said Lisa Peterson, an AKC spokeswoman, in a written statement. "A dog is a major investment -- a living, breathing being who will rely on you for 10 years or more. Take time to educate yourself on the hallmarks of a legitimate and responsible breeder."
Both the AKC and the business bureau report they've recently received complaints from people who have lost money after responding to online solicitations or newspaper ads about puppies for sale. The scammer, who generally poses as a breeder, either sends out e-mails or puts up ads offering up free or inexpensive puppies. The ads have been spotted on MySpace postings, Web sites, and in newspaper classified sections. The scammer claims he's affiliated with a religious organization and is being relocated to a foreign country and needs to find a new home for the puppies.
"The consumer can be taken in by the sincerity of the scammer, who'll say that they don't care about money and just want to find a good home for their beloved puppies," said Steve Cox, VP of communications for the CBBB, in a written statement. "But then the fees for shipping the pet mount up and the consumer can lose hundreds of dollars before realizing they've been conned and will never get their puppy."
Both organizations offer this advice to anyone looking to buy a puppy:
- Do your research. Ask if the breeder is a member of an AKC-affiliated club and contact the club to verify membership or check recent listings of available AKC litters from breeders at the club's Web site. Potential dog owners also can check with the BBB and the AKC to see if there are any complaints about the breeder. Request references and speak to other people who have purchased dogs from this breeder, especially if the breeder doesn't live near you.
- Good breeders focus on the puppy, not the payment. Beware of breeders who seem overly concerned with getting paid. Any reputable breeder will be far more concerned with the appropriateness of the potential pet home than what and when they're getting paid. Make sure you have clear expectations -- ideally in writing -- of how and when the pup will be paid for. Be especially wary of any breeder who insists that you wire money and who calls to ask for more money to be wired to cover last-minute shipping fees.
- Don't be fooled by a slick Web site. Unscrupulous breeders and even outright scammers can be represented by professional-looking Web sites that lure you in with fraudulent pictures of adorable puppies. At the very least, speak with the breeder on the telephone and ideally meet the breeder and the puppy in person. If you locate a breeder online, never send money without checking their references and credentials first.
- Take your time. Beware of breeders who claim to have multiple breeds ready to ship immediately. It's highly unlikely that your perfect puppy will be available for shipping on the day you call. Gestation and socialization of a litter takes months -- no puppy should be separated from its mother before it's eight weeks old.
- Report a scam. Anyone who has experienced a dog-related scam should report it to local law enforcement, as well as to their local Better Business Bureau.