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Horseshoe Magazine

The perils of getting a pet online

Have you ever scrolled through a social media site like Facebook and seen an ad for someone selling a pet?

This may look like a great opportunity to add a furry member to your family, but most people don’t consider the risks that come along with buying a pet online. Those risks include pet scammers, forged medical records, getting a different breed than the one advertised or the animal being sick with worms, fleas or infections.

In 2011, my cousin, Alison Mena, fell victim to an online ad selling what was supposed to be a Cane Corso puppy for $100, but was given a mixed-breed dog that was nothing like the one advertised.

Mena said, “Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog to death, she is just not what I thought I was going to receive. I took her to the vet shortly after we got her and when the vet did tests it came back that she is actually a mutt and not at all a Cane Corso puppy.”

A study by found that there are thousands of fraudulent pet and shipping websites just waiting to prey and scam potential pet owners, it said, “these have been created by opportunistic cybercriminals for the sole purpose of defrauding unsuspecting buyers by selling animals which do not exist.”

This is more common than people think, and many fall victim to it. From The US Better Business Bureau: “80% of all sponsored advertising links to pet websites were created by these offenders to advertise their websites. Victim complaints made to the US Better Business Bureau, for example, have quadrupled between 2017 and 2020 to well over 4,000.”

According to, you can avoid getting targeted by these scammers by asking for several pictures of the pet with specific items, the phone number of the person selling the pet and the veterinary clinic the pet has been to. If the seller attempts to get you to send money to another place besides the state they are currently in or is not in the United States, then try to avoid the sale. If the person claims to be a breeder, ask for the breeder registration information. Never pay in cash and be skeptical if the seller adds “additional charges.” Do not trust the seller if they try to push the sale to happen quickly. Do your research on what is a fair price for the kind of breed you are interested in getting. Lastly, watch out for poor grammar in emails or any other forms of communication. 

Although it seems like an easy way to get a pet, the internet has shady people whose intentions may not be honorable. When it comes to getting a pet, buy one in person. Animals are a blessing. Just make sure you are doing the research before you make any decisions.

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