DALLAS, Texas — Man's best friend became even more popular during the pandemic. With everyone cooped up at home, dog adoptions and sales soared. Some shelters across the nation saw their kennels empty in droves.
But while families started to grow by four legs, scammers were also at work.
A new study by Veterinarians.org found that Texas is the number 2 state in the nation regarding puppy fraud or scams.
Such scams involve willing buyers unknowingly contacting fake breeders, usually through social media or a phony website, and paying for a dog only to be duped.
The study found that from Jan. 1, 2021, to Oct. 31, 2021, there were 165% more puppy scams in the U.S. than during the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.
California has the most puppy scams this year, but Texas came in second, with 242 reported from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31.
All of the data was compiled from the Better Business Bureau. The average money consumers lost to puppy scams in Texas was $913.
The study read that victims in Texas collectively lost over $220,000 to puppy scams, with many finding themselves conned out of several thousand dollars in certain instances.
Baldo Leon is one of the 200+ victims. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, and was looking for a Goldendoodle for his daughter around May. He says it was going to be a gift for his daughter to start high school.
Leon told WFAA that he was searching for the best deal he could find.
"They're expensive dogs," Leon said.
His daughter ended up finding a "breeder" on Facebook claiming to be operating out of Plano that was offering reasonably priced puppies for around $600.
The low price, Leon admits, should have been a red flag.
"He sent me multiple pictures of different puppies, which is what we were looking for," Leon said.
Leon said he contacted the breeder and began vetting them.
"He showed me a Texas ID, he told me where he lived, and gave me his address and gave me an account for us to wire the money to," Leon said.
All of those things, aside from the account, ended up being fake.
Per Leon, the breeder told him they would ship a purebred female to his area so Leon wired $600 roughly to the scammer via Zelle.
But he began to smell a scam when the breeder called and started asking for more money to ship the dog.
"He told me that the crate or the kennel was incorrect for the airline they were using and that he needed an additional $500. I sent it to him, but my bank stopped it, fortunately," Leon said.
After he didn't send the money, Leon said the breeder got more and more aggressive--that's when he knew for sure it was a scam.
"It was a horrible experience, I was manipulated, and I was conned," Leon said.
The bank didn't refund him his $600 either. "They told me they weren't liable," Leon said. Leon reported the incident to the Plano Police Department.
A similar situation happened to Juia Laney out of Denton in 2019.
Her daughter wanted a Goldendoodle, and Laney had found a reasonably priced puppy online via a breeder on Facebook.
After paying roughly $700 upfront, Laney also started to smell a scam when the "breeder" asked for more money to ship the dog.
"They kept telling me that the airline was telling them they had the wrong kennel, and they wanted me to pay for one and that I would get my money back," Laney said.
"But all of these kennels were like $500, and I was like this is an extreme amount to transport a puppy."
Unfortunately, Laney and her daughter were on the way to the airport to pick up the dog they were expecting to be delivered, and the Denton mom had to break the news to her daughter in the car.
"I just looked at her and said this isn't happening. And she was upset, but as time went on, she was more upset that I lost my money," Laney said with a laugh.
Some good news: both families ended up with a new furry family member. Leon's daughter got the poodle she wanted, and Laney's daughter took in an older German Shepherd.
Still, the BBB and Veterinarians.org are sharing these tips to spot a puppy scam:
- The seller claims that you will not be able to see the puppy in person before adoption and/or cannot provide you with multiple pictures/videos of the puppy up for adoption.
- The seller asks for payment upfront through Western Union, MoneyGram, a digital money app like Zelle or Cash App, or via a gift card.
- The seller or a third party asks for payment to cover additional items such as a climate-controlled crate for shipping, vaccinations, or transportation insurance/life insurance. In many cases, fraudulent emails will claim the shipping costs/crate rental fees will be refunded upon the puppy’s delivery. However, they never are.
- The breeder’s website offers no information about the sire or dam of the litter, and/or the breeder is unable to provide proof of health records or AKC Certification.
- In the case of purebred breeds, the puppy in question is offered at a significantly steep discount compared to the average price for a puppy of its breed.