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SCAM ALERT: Online Puppy Sales

Lucythe Golden Retriever pup

What Is A Puppy Mill?   *   What Can I Do About It?   *   Laws/Legislation   *   ACTION ALERTS!


       If you are considering buying a puppy you have seen on the internet -- BEWARE! We have recently been contacted by several people who have lost their "puppy deposits" to scammers and on-line thieves! (NOTE: On May 2, 2019, CBS This Morning did an investigative report called "Fake breeders are scamming people into buying puppies that don't exist". One interesting fact that we learned from the report is, according to the Better Business Bureau, "at least 80 percent of websites advertising pets for sale, the vast majority believed to be puppies, are frauds and mostly based in West Africa." Watch or read the report here.)


  • WIshbone, a lemon dal.Use temporary web sites to post adorable puppies. THESE PUPPIES DO NOT EXIST! The pictures you are falling in love with are likely stock or "pirated" photos of puppies the scammer has never even seen. Just do an internet search on "free [your preferred breed] puppy photos" and see how many pictures come up. (I did, and actually found the photo at the right of my own adopted dog! It was taken without permission from his online rescue listing and made available for free download from two separate "stock" photo sites!)

  • Use throw away cell phones. You may have a contact number one day, and the line is disconnected the next.

  • Build trust with you until you put down a deposit or make a payment. They may ask for payment by check, money order, prepaid gift cards, whatever -- and after they get your money, they disappear. Or even worse, contact you again with a story about some unforeseen circumstance that requires another payment -- THEN, they disappear with your money.

  • Offer to deliver the puppy someplace near you -- then never show up.


  • FIRST AND FOREMOST: DO NOT buy puppies sight unseen online! INSIST that you must meet the puppies' parents and see where they live.

  • READ our information on how to identify a quality breeder. See "Additional Resources," below, for articles both on our website, and available from the Wisconsin Department of Trade, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

  • NEVER put down a deposit until you have met the seller, the puppy and the parents!

  • If you are in Wisconsin, ASK for the breeder's/ seller's STATE DOG SELLER LICENSE NUMBER.

  • SECURE screen shots of puppy sellers in case the site disappears.

  • USE the screen shots and other information to REPORT THE SCAMMERS using the DATCP Dog Seller complaint form found here.

  • DON'T make it easy for future scammers -- consider "signing" all of the photos you post of your own dogs. Check your privacy settings on social media, and consider using copyright notices or watermarks as shown on the photos on this page.

       Please check your local shelter and rescue websites -- many of them have adorable puppies and great adult dogs available for adoption. One of them might be the perfect dog for you!

Lucy is a beautiful golden retriever who was purchased from a responaible, reputable breeder.

This adorable puppy was purchased in person from a responsible breeder. To minimize the possibility of a scammer using our photo to sell non-existent puppies online, our photographer has "watermarked" it and posted his copyright notice.


Additional Resources:

What Is A Puppy Mill?
What Can I Do?
Laws/ Legislation


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© Copyright, 2008. The Wisconsin Puppy MIll Project
P.O. Box 926    *    Sheboygan, WI 53082-0926   *

Article Copyright © 2005, by Eilene Ribbens. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
"Lucy" Photos Copyright © 2017, by Pat Crean, Flying Spots Photograpy. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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