Puppy scams are a growing issue! Here is some simple advice to avoid being scammed.

By Emma Dunkley

Co-founder of My Little Mate
Emma Dunkley - Co-founder of My Little Mate

If you are looking for a dog, and you are anything like me, you fall in love with every cute puppy face that crosses your path, closely followed by the thought "ohhhhh... maybe I want one of those."

I've been in the market for a dog for a couple of years now, and quite honestly, I haven't been able to make a decision on which breed is most suitable for me. I have a young family, and I am not an experienced dog owner. Every pooch from rottweiler to cavoodle floats my boat, and when it comes to getting serious about finding the right dog for my family, I am acutely aware of the pitfalls that are out there waiting for the unsuspecting pet buyer to fall into.

The 'art' of scamming is not a new concept of course, it's as old as time. We all know the digital age has made both financial and personal identification scamming infinitely easier. When you apply this to the pet industry and add in a COVID pandemic to really shake things up? well, let's just say, Australia ? we have a problem.

The Australian pet industry was worth over $4 billion in 2019, and its value has probably risen in the past 14 months due to COVID. The demand for pets outweighed supply in Australia in 2020, which has sharply increased both the price of pets and the incidence of pet scamming.

Whilst it is easy to fall for every gorgeous puppy photo you come across (trust me I know!), it is important to resist the urge to throw cash at the pet seller without doing some homework. So, how do you avoid being scammed? How do you make sure you are purchasing a pet from a reputable breeder? Let me give you some advice.

1.Phone them

Old school, I know! It may seem like the most simplistic of tasks ? but a simple phone call (yes, using your voice and listening to theirs!) could save you thousands of dollars and avoid you being scammed. A good pet breeder will not only be happy to take your call but will answer all your questions and ask questions of you as well.

One thing that became immediately apparent when I started talking to breeders for My Little Mate, was that you just know when you are talking to a good pet breeder. Firstly, they have A LOT to say about their breed. These breeders are intelligent, passionate, caring and dedicated people who want to share their knowledge with you. They will tell you all about the parents and they will talk openly and honestly about p.5 their breeding experience and experiences.

A less than reputable breeder won't do this. In fact, generally they choose not to communicate via phone at all. Simply by text or email. It sounds like I am telling you it's 'all about the vibe', but a 20-minute conversation should put you on the right path to knowing you are supporting and buying your pet from a good breeder. If you are getting a bad feeling from a phone call, walk away. Your instinct is probably right.

2.Become a Digital Super Sleuth

Whilst technology is making scamming easier, it can also make sleuthing easy work for you. If you've found a puppy you're interested in, Google the breeder. Check their Facebook page. Do an ABN or phone lookup. If they have Breeder Identification Numbers (which in most cases, they should) - check them by contacting their Dog Breeding Association or the appropriate State Government Register.

In addition, you can cross check breeder details with Puppy Scam Awareness Australia or Scam Watch. You can reverse Google image search to check the photos they are using are unique. (You do this by 'right clicking' over the image and selecting "Search Google for Image").

There are many ways to check someone's digital footprint and it is important to take the time to validate breeders before you start handing over cash to them.

3. Insist on meeting the parents

When any relationship gets serious, it is almost mandatory to meet the parents. This applies in the pet world too! Whilst COVID-19 has knocked travel on the head over the past 14 months, we still have technology - so where applicable you should always insist on 'meeting' the mum and or dad of the pup you are going to purchase, via a video call.

A great breeder will have no problems with this and will happily show mum and pup together.

On this call, you will be looking at the health of the mum, her energy levels, the cleanliness of the environment and whether there are other pups around to encourage socialization.

A video call can show so much! It's a simple process, for which no one has an excuse to say no! If they do, walk away.

4. Ask for paperwork

All pups should come with paperwork of some kind. At the very least, you should receive a microchip certificate, record of worming, flea p.7 and tick treatment and vaccinations and the puppy's parent's pedigree papers (if it's a purebred). If you are not receiving these basics, then you need to ask why!

5. Organise your own pet transport

The pet transport companies we deal with at My Little Mate are outraged that pet transportation has become the new way to scam money from unsuspecting buyers. The basic premise for this racket is that the pet seller will ask for money to transport the pup to your place and continue to ask for money for add-ons such as "COVID fees" - which simply don't exist.

Simple solution. Organise your own transport. Pet transport companies are professional businesses that will guide you through what needs to be done to make your pup compliant for travel. It is no more difficult for you as the buyer to organise this for your new little mate, and for piece of mind, it's worth it. This is by no means a definitive checklist of things to do to avoid being pet scammed, but these five points will set you on a path for a better understanding about who the person is you are purchasing your pet from and how they operate as a business selling companion animals.

It is imperative to support breeders who put animal welfare at the forefront of their business. To make an impact on the incidence of pet scamming, we all need to work at knowing who we are buying our pets from. We need to stop the inadvertent support of puppy farmers and we need to take our time to find a pet, by doing the background work on the seller. It may take a little more time, but it will be worth it.

Is there another way you can determine whether you are dealing with a legitimate and REPUTABLE breeder? See if they are registered with My Little Mate.

What is My Little Mate?

My Little Mate is an online platform that brings together pet breeders who have been validated in a comprehensive process of digital checks and phone interviews. We take the onus of verifying pet breeders away from the buyers, ensuring that our pet sellers are legitimate, that they have pets to sell and these pets are happy, healthy and socialised. We can help you shop around for pet transport quotations, which we will pass on to you to decide a supplier. We want to create a marketplace where pet buyers can shop for a pet with confidence and pet sellers can help us grow our community of like minded, professional, positive and dedicated breeders. If you are a pet breeder or buyer and you'd like to get involved, check us out at www.mylittlemate.com.au

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