Michigan Attorney General Warns of Puppy Scams During Pandemic

Scam artists continue to do anything they can to take advantage of people during the pandemic and now Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States in urging everyone to be wary of a string of puppy scams against people looking for a furry friend while many are confined to working from or simply staying home.

Nessel says that given the increased number of those staying at home during the ongoing public health emergency, many are turning to the internet to adopt a pet for companionship. Her office has seen a surge in complaints of internet scammers exploiting the situation. In fact, several Michigan residents have recently been tricked into paying for pets that do not even exist. And, because the thieves are often outside of the country, the prospects of getting your money back are extremely low.

Nessel warns, “Scammers are looking for any way to take advantage of consumers during this pandemic and puppies are unfortunately not exempt.” She adds, “While many people may be eager to bring home a puppy during this time, I urge Michiganders to be vigilant in their search to avoid being scammed. My office continues to prioritize protecting residents from predatory and deceptive business practices, and these puppy scams will ultimately result in heartbreak and financial loss. Always do your homework before making any purchase online to avoid being taken advantage of.”

In addition to the deceptive practices of advertising puppies that do not exist or charging exorbitant fees, scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic as they use it as a reason to avoid in-person visits and demand additional fees.

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Molly Tamulevich, Michigan State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, says,  “Taking advantage of Michiganders by exploiting our love of animals is as cruel to the people as it is to the dogs. We are very grateful to General Nessel’s office for taking this issue seriously.”

Each year, consumers in the U.S. spend more than $1 billion buying puppies without realizing they may be doing business with scammers, puppy mill operators or both. Puppy mills are inhumane, dog breeding operations that keep dogs in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions and, depending on the location, many are not regulated or inspected. Breeders hide their poor conditions by meeting buyers at offsite locations or selling through pet stores or online.

Since 2018, the Michigan Department of Attorney General has received nearly 50 complaints of alleged puppy scams – 26 of these complaints coming in this year alone.

The Michigan Department of Attorney General previously provided tips to help consumers spot and avoid puppy scams. Consumers should remain hyper-vigilant when purchasing a puppy online. The below best practices can help consumers avoid falling victim to these scams:

  • Research the breed
  • Research the breeder
  • Research the advertised puppy
  • Do not purchase a puppy sight-unseen
  • Use a credit card to make the purchase
  • Retain all documents and communications from the breeder
  • Consider contacting your local shelter
  • To view the consumer alert, click here.

Michigan consumers who believe they have been a victim of a puppy scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team online.

Local animal support lovers strongly encourage using local adoption opportunities through such organizations as Southwestern Michigan Humane Society, Paws of Hope of SW Michigan, and Animal Aid of Southwest Michigan, instead of online sources.