Calgary

Puppy scams cost Canadians thousands. Here's how to avoid being ripped off

Puppy scams have cost Canadians more than $105,000 since January 2020, according to the Better Business Bureau.

'Take the necessary steps to ensure the breeder is legitimate and ethical,' says Better Business Bureau

March 23, 2021, is National Puppy Day. The Better Business Bureau says many Canadians lose a lot of money to puppy scams every year. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Puppy scams have cost Canadians more than $105,000 since January 2020, according to the Better Business Bureau.

To help mark National Puppy Day on Tuesday, the non-profit group put together a list of tips to help people avoid getting taken in by scammers as they shop for a new dog.

Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB for southern Alberta and B.C.'s East Kootenay region, says consumers need to be especially diligent if they are trying to purchase a puppy online.

"Ask for references from other satisfied customers, set up a live video call to meet the breeder and the puppy, and ask for detailed information about the dog and its health," she said in a release.

"Take the necessary steps to ensure the breeder is legitimate and ethical. Don't become the victim of a scammer."

The Better Business Bureau says Canadians have reported losses totalling more than $105,000 on its BBB Scam Tracker due to puppy scams since the start of last year.

Some things to look out for:

  • Legitimate breeders normally have a permanent website, not just a Facebook page.
  • Breeder websites normally list and show individual breeding dogs — not just pictures of cute puppies.
  • Look for show titles, health clearances and highlights of a breeding program.
  • If a dog is advertised as "purebred" in Canada, it must be registered by the breeder, not the owner, with the Canadian Kennel Club.
  • Be wary if you're asked to pay before you see the animal in person. Pre-paid shipping often results in a ripoff. It's best to shop where you can visit the breeder or the place of the dog's birth.
  • The puppy should come with a veterinarian health check and its first shots and be eight weeks old so that it's properly weaned. 
  • Ask for references and follow up with them.
  • Avoid third-party transportation arrangements. It's better to choose a breeder who lives close enough for you to travel to. 

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