Although this has been a scam going on for a while, it is gaining momentum and more and more of us are getting caught out. The scam is this...
Pets like cats and dogs are breed at huge pet farms, unethically and in poor conditions. They are then shipped out to third party sellers who are not reputable pet sellers, often faking vaccination certificates and the pets invariably get ill or die within a few days of being collected by the buyer.
"This is something very close to my heart", founder of SimpleCyberLife.com Jonny Pelter says. "Myself and my wife were victim of a petfishing scam about a year ago."
"We collected two kittens from what seemed like a reputable seller but both got critically ill within 3 or 4 days of us bringing them home. Then ensued a nightmare two weeks where both kittens were fighting for their lives in a vet hospital, eventually one pulling through and one not."
"Insurers are well aware of these scams and as such our policy said the policy starts only after two weeks of collecting the kittens, so they were uninsured when they fell ill. The thousands of pounds in vet bills subsequently fell on our shoulders, making the emotional turmoil of not wanting to let these kittens down as soon as they have come into our care even worse".
These scams are run like businesses and can make the criminals millions of pounds per year. If you're not careful, it can cost you thousands in (uninsured) vet bills, the emotional cost of having to put the pet down if they become too ill or don't recover, or if they do survive then they may have behaviour issues such as separation anxiety caused from being taken from their mother too early.
Jonny says "Looking back, the signs were there but if you don’t know what to look out for you’d definitely miss them." Here are some tips to ensure that if you're buying a new pet, that you don't fall victim to a petfishing scam.
What Are The Signs to Watch Out For?
- Money - do they ask for deposits even before you've visited the pet in person.
- Early Departures. The first couple of months is a critical time for any new born animal. No decent breeder will ever allow a pet to leave their custody before the 12 week mark. This is to ensure that they are strong enough to be transported to a new environment, learned basic potty training and have been fully checked out by a vet. Often criminal breeders will exploit the excitement the buyers will undoubtedly have and push them onto them before they are stronger enough to leave.
- Accommodation - criminals often rent flats or houses especially to make it look like they live there. When you visit, ensure the living space isn't bare. Is there food in the kitchen? Did you walk past the bedroom and see no sheets on the bed or no clothes hanging up? Ensure the accommodation is the actual home of the breeder.
- Change plans at the last minute? Do they suddenly offer to deliver the pet to you or want to meet in a carpark or lay-by? They find excuses for not wanting to meet at their home premises.
- Variety of Breeds. Pet farmers often have access to a wide variety of pets. Decent breeders almost invariably focus on specific breed.
- Engagement - reputable breeders love pets and love sharing that with other people. Alot of great breeders often send videos and photos of you pet during the stage that you have committed with a deposit but they are still in the breeder care. If you're not receiving any engagement like this at all from the breeder, it should be a red flag.
- Are The Kittens/Puppies With Their Mother? When you visit the breeder at their premises, the kittens/puppies you're seeing should be evidently from a mother that is still with living with them.
- Don't Ask You Any Questions? It's a two way street. Good breeders are always cautious about giving their little animals to buyers who won't look after them properly. If they're not asking you any questions and 'vetting' you (sorry, just had to!) then this should raise alarm bells.
How to Check If A Breeder is Reputable
If you get any suspicions at all or any of the above red flags are tripped, ensure you do the following;
- Are They A Registered Breeder? Ask for their registration details (sometimes known as a Local Authority License) as decent breeders always certify with a governing body.
- Ask for Vet Certificates. During this initial 2-3 month period, they should have visited the vet at least a couple of times to get them vaccinated, microchipped (a legal requirement) and dewormed - ask for proof of these certificates.
- Request Their Vets Contact You. If certificates aren't forth coming, ask them to get the vets to email them across to you. For data protection reasons, they'll have to request this, not you but most reputable breeders won't have an issue. You can double check the email of the vets that you receive against the one on their official website to ensure they haven't created a fake email. If you never get an email, steal well clear.
- Evidence of Insurance. Reputable breeders have breeder insurance. Ask them for their certificate and then call the insurer to validate they are a live policy holder.
- Research Them Online. Google them. A complete lack of reviews or any online footprint should be highly suspicious.
We hope this was helpful for you!