The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said between January 1 and October 18, Scamwatch received 1627 reports of puppy scams leading to more than $1.6 million in losses.
“So far in 2020, losses to puppy scams are more than four times higher than those experienced across all of 2019,” the ACCC said.
“In 2019, Scamwatch received 498 reports of puppy scams, with $375,510 in losses.”
Puppy flippers are people who purchase a dog under the pretence they will own and desex it but they actually go on to sell the puppy at a higher price or use it for breeding.
Determining whether or not a dog has come from a reputable breeder, or that the animal actually exists, can take some detective work, as Michael from the Gold Coast has told ABC Radio Brisbane.
When Michael’s friend found a puppy on the online marketplace Gumtree, the friend asked for evidence the seller was a legitimate breeder.
The seller provided what they said was a photo of themselves with their breeder certificate but Michael and his friend were not convinced.
“When we dug into it and we actually contacted the breeder separately, the breeder said someone had contacted her in the same manner to buy a dog and the [scammer] had said, ‘How do we know you’re a breeder?’
“The scammer had actually asked the breeder to stand there and hold their ID and take a photo of themselves and send the picture.”
“The scammers then used that picture.”
Scammers have also been known to take the photos from the websites of legitimate breeders.
“What they’re doing is they’re lifting photos of actual dogs from breeders and asking for funds to get transferred,” Ms Greenwood.
“Funds get transferred, and of course there is no dog.”
Dogs Queensland registers breeders and regulates standards. Ms Greenwood said should people reach out to the organisation when they were trying to determine a breeder’s status.
“It’s been an extraordinary year with COVID,” she said.
“People are staying closer to home and people are recognising the benefits of having a dog.”
“Unfortunately, it is a question of … buyer beware.
“It’s a really important decision adding a member to your family and I would like to counsel [people] to do the research.
“Many of the breeds have got breed clubs and you can be given the details of those breed clubs through Dogs Queensland.”
Ms Greenwood said advertisements with exorbitant price tags were often a sign of a backyard breeder.
She recommended would-be pet owners contact breeders and visit them to see the conditions in which their puppies were reared before making a decision.
Incoming patatoes pic.twitter.com/aNjy4BSD2f
— Puppies 🐶 (@PopularPuppies) November 24, 2020
‘There are definitely dogs here’
While many of the breeds on offer at animal rescue shelters do not end in “oodle”, the RSPCA says there are still many dogs that need homes.
“We don’t get too many of the small fluffies, there’s no doubt about that,” RSPCA spokesperson Michael Beatty said.
“But there are definitely dogs here.
“We haven’t been cleaned out.”
He cautioned prospective pet owners to be thoughtful about their choice of dog and not to simply buy animals “willy nilly”.
“Any vet will tell you that French bulldogs do have endemic problems that have been bred into them over the years,” he said.
”So you do have to be careful.
“You do have to do your research on the breeder and go to the place where the dogs are being bred.”