Florida sheriff's office warns of puppy scams: What to watch out for

A Florida sheriff’s office is warning residents about puppy scams. They outline what to watch out for and some other tips on adding a furry companion to the family.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said that they have received dozens of complaints about puppy scams throughout the county.

In recent cases, they said that victims have responded to ads on sites like Craigslist and social media platforms. Victims showed interest in a puppy for sale and went to reserve the puppy by putting down a deposit or the entire amount. At this point, the seller disappears.

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The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the Flagler Beach Police Department are teaming up to educate the community on preventative measures, including teaching residents how to verify a legitimate business and how to protect yourself and your family from a scam.

There are a number of red flags that they said you should look out for:

  • "The seller prefers to handle communication solely via email and not over the phone."
  • "Photos posted of the dogs or shared with potential buyers are stock photos. Photos and descriptions of the animal can be found on multiple websites."
  • "Untraditional payment requests, where the seller asks for wiring of money or payment by gift cards."
  • "The price is too good to be true."

Other recent cases reportedly also included fraudulent American Kennel Club (AKC) paperwork where the seller claimed the puppies were AKC certified. However, KC-registered animals will always be listed through the AKC. AKC certification can also be verified by calling 919-233-9767 or visit www.akc.org.

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The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the Flagler Beach Police Department also provided the following tips when searching for a puppy or dog to add to the family:

  • "Ask for multiple pictures of the pet, including poses with specific items such as a recent newspaper or tennis ball, to make sure the pet is real."
  • "Ask for a phone number for the person who’s selling/re-homing the pet and the name of the veterinary clinic where the pet has been seen. If the seller won’t give the number or it’s not a US number, then it’s probably a scam! If you are provided phone numbers, call back and ask questions."
  • "If the seller says they are in a specific state and asks you to send money elsewhere, especially in another country, avoid it."
  • "If the person is claiming to be a breeder or rescue organization, ask for registration information. (All legitimate businesses and nonprofit organizations will be registered with SunBiz and the Department of Agriculture). You can verify at: https://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/"
  • "Never pay cash via money order or Western Union. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute charges."
  • "Be skeptical if the seller adds "additional charges" such as fees for veterinary visits, a different crate, travel expenses, pet insurance, etc. Pet insurance is NOT required for a pet to travel."
  • "Don’t trust a seller that pushes for the sale to happen quickly due to them moving, having to re-home the pet immediately, or stating that harm may come to the puppy if not taken in a timely manner."
  • "Do your research to get a sense for the breed you’re seeking, the seller, or the agency, organization or rescue you’re selecting, and ensure you fully understand what is entailed in the cost."

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly added that "It saddens me to see people sinking to this level of using animals to make a quick buck. Be aware and lookout, report suspicious activity and do your research when adding a new pet to your family. We have some great local organizations that can help you adopt a pet, such as the Flagler Humane Society, so if you’re considering adopting, please make sure you’re selecting a reputable organization or person."

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Since 2020, law enforcement said that ten cases of puppy fraud have been reported to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and another 20 cases to the Flagler Beach Police Department.

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