If you’re looking to buy an adorable puppy, like this cute black and white puppy looking directly at the camera, avoid puppy scams.

How to Avoid Puppy Scams this Breeding Season


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“Puppies for sale”. Those three words can be hard to resist for someone looking to add some big puppy dog eyes to their family. But with online puppy scams on the rise, undertaking thorough background research is vital. Once you’ve done your due diligence – starting here! – you can hopefully buy a puppy with confidence.

The past few years mark a time none of us will forget in a hurry. Inflation, a global pandemic, catastrophic bushfires, turbulent elections… But a lesser-known curveball is the increase in online puppy scams taking unsuspecting New Zealanders’ hard-earned money.

So, what’s with that? Let’s look at what this article covers.

there’s been a dramatic surge in the number of people adopting dogs like this cute white puppy looking directly at the camera.

How COVID affected pet adoption and puppy scams

Since COVID began, there’s been a dramatic surge in people adopting dogs. In fact, around 12% of the 1,000+ pet parents we surveyed soon after the pandemic was declared said they took on a new pet due to COVID. And nearly three in four said that their pet/s helped them cope during that period (and no doubt still are).

An increased desire for pet ownership and the rise of the furbaby continues to drive this uptake.

We think that’s wonderful! So many dogs and cats finding loving families for a lifetime. What we don’t think is wonderful is the number of scammers who are trying to take advantage of this.

Dog theft linked to puppy scams

Unfortunately, online opportunists lurk among the happy snaps of smiling families playing outside with roly-poly puppies. The rise in demand to buy a puppy has provided increased prospecting potential for these puppy scammers.

In fact, many black market scammers find puppies to be safer to deal than the usual contraband they deal in. This is also leading to a significant spike in stolen dogs.

Puppy scams vs puppy mills in New Zealand

Kiwis aren’t immune – puppy scams are operating in New Zealand too. Join any dog enthusiast Facebook group here and you’ll soon see a conversation about it. And puppy mills in New Zealand are a real problem too. While you’ll still get a puppy in return for your hard-earned cash, they’re often bred and kept inhumanely.

Avoid puppy scams by finding ethical dog breeders whenever you see “Puppies for sale” advertisements online. Our national kennel club Dogs New Zealand is a great place to start looking for professional breeders with solid reputations for quality litters and quality pet health care.

Or perhaps consider bringing home an adopted dog instead. Shelters in New Zealand are overpopulated with unwanted puppies and dogs. These pooches are just waiting to fill someone’s heart. Because every day is national puppy day when you have a new furball to love, read our dog adoption checklist to get started.

And while you’re making note of what to read, be sure you’ve factored in the hidden costs first, by reading our ‘real price of new pets’ article here. You may also want to read about dog DNA tests in NZ or perhaps you’ve wondered why Siamese kittens change colour. We’ve got you covered with these articles!

OK, moving on….

While not limited to specific breeds, puppy scams often target small, popular and expensive breeds like English and French Bulldogs and hybrid dog breeds like the Spoodle. You get the idea – puppy scams tend to deal in the top dog breeds in New Zealand.

Kiwi social media groups centred around popular breeds are regularly removing posts from suspected puppy scammers trying to sell non-existent animals.

While puppy scam tactics can vary, there are patterns with how scammers operate. Stay alert like this brown dog.

How to spot puppy scams

While puppy scam tactics can vary, there are patterns with how scammers operate. The following may be signs you’re dealing with one when you’re researching puppies for sale.

Pets are sold on Trade Me and Facebook.

These are two of the preferred platforms puppy scammers use because they’re easier to hide behind. But some do go to the trouble of creating bogus websites.

Free email account.

They’ll use a free email service provider like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. Legitimate breeders are more likely to use email addresses pertaining to their professional website, e.g., [email protected].

Free pet – just pay “freight” = puppy scams.

There’ll be some reason why the freebie offerer can’t keep the ‘beloved’ pet… Family hardship, death of the pet’s owner, relocation, etc. All you have to pay is the airline transport fee for the dog to be delivered to you. For example, Jetpets NZ issued a warning advising of this particular type of animal travel puppy scams.

You can’t pick the puppy up in person.

Initially, scammers offer the pet in a location close to you, which is how they get your attention in the first place. But then there’ll be some reason why they’ve relocated far away, where you can’t visit or collect the animal in person. They tell you they’ll have to send the pet via animal courier.

While puppy scam tactics can vary, there are patterns with how scammers operate.

Untraceable payment methods.

Puppy scams pros often want payment via Western Union or a similarly untraceable service. They might tell you to lie to the Western Union representative, saying that you’re transferring money to family rather than buying something.

Inconsistencies in language, dates, names etc.

Liars need good memories to cover their tracks completely. Look for inconsistencies in your correspondence: from the company name to dates, details about the puppy, details about the pup’s parents, and so on.

Spelling and grammatical errors.

If their correspondence is full of errors, that’s a red flag because legitimate breeders will take the time to create a professional impression.

Unable to be contacted on the phone.

Don’t buy a puppy from anyone who won’t take the time to answer your questions in detail over the phone. If they’re only available via email or text, that’s not a good sign.  

More money needed.

After making the initial payment, there may be some reason why you need to pay more. The animal needs a specific crate, they need insurance, a health inspection etc. This is a common tactic of online puppy scammers who advertise puppies for sale.

Think about whether everything the “seller” is saying makes sense and can’t have holes poked in it. Listen to your gut too.

How to report puppy scams

The Investigation Support Unit’s Constable Kylee Coubrough advises calling 111 if something illegal is happening right now. If it’s already happened, you can provide information via the New Zealand Police non-emergency number 105.

Found the perfect new dog for your family?

So, you’ve avoided puppy scams and found the right breeder – fantastic. Now read our article on puppies for sale in NZ, which provides a heap of extra trips on how to buy a puppy right. Then, you can happily then bring home your stupidly adorable fur baby. Congratulations!

You should also seriously consider protecting that purchase and their health with quality pet insurance. PD Insurance offers affordable month to month plans with no lock in contracts and a free month or more if you sign up online!

Get started by checking out our dog insurance here or click below to grab a quick quote today.

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