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Beware: Holiday Pet Scams

Beware of puppy scam this holiday
November 9, 2018 —
As the holidays approach, many families may be considering purchasing or adopting an animal. Beware of pet scams, which are becoming more prevalent. Scammers are luring pet lovers out of thousands of dollars with photos of cute animals, heart-breaking stories and irresistible prices. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if it is a scam, until it is too late. So, before you send any money, read the tips from the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA), the non-profit, worldwide trade association for professional pet shippers.

How to Recognize a Scam

Many scams begin with an advertisement – an adorable puppy or an exotic animal at half the cost or even free. Once someone responds, most likely over e-mail, they will soon learn that the animal is located overseas. The scammer’s only request payment for the inexpensive shipping fees, usually by a wire service, before the animal can be shipped. But additional costs will soon follow – extra shipping costs, customs clearance fees, vaccinations and insurance. Once the money is sent, the person learns there is no animal.

Here are some tips on identifying pet scams:

  • Always insist that the seller enter into a formal contract. The document should detail the method of transportation, timeframe, the airline of carriage, all associated costs, and copy of the health certificate.

  • Confirm the Shipper. If the seller indicates that a specific company will handle the shipping, get complete details for the shipping company and then call them!

  • Check affiliations. In order to convey authenticity, scammers may claim to be a member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA). If this is the case, simply look up their company name in the IPATA member directory (visit http://www.ipata.org and click on “Find a Pet Shipper”). If they are not in the directory, please contact IPATA at as they may be a new member that does not show up in the directory yet.

  • Insurance. Scammers will try to charge for “refundable insurance” in case the pet is lost or hurt during the trip overseas. As we all know, there are no refunds when it comes to insurance!
  • Most importantly - Be wary of sending funds by Western Union or MoneyGram! Scammers will say these types of services are the most inexpensive and fastest way of doing business. However, most reputable dealers will request that you wire transfer funds from your bank to their company bank account or will accept a credit card or PayPal payment.

Last year, IPATA collaborated with the Better Business Bureau on an investigative report they conducted into the rising number of pet scams. Read the full report here.

According to the report, “The simple truth is that the best way to avoid a fraud is to inspect the pet yourself by arranging to meet with the prospective seller in person. Most legitimate breeders will welcome the visit. There is no good way to be sure you are not dealing with a fraud if you have no direct in person contact with the seller.”

“For those families who have found an animal over the Internet, I just warn you to be cautious," says IPATA President Simon Jackson. "As a professional pet shipper, I have seen hundreds of scams and advise you to educate yourself on how scammers operate so you won’t be their next victim.”

For more information, please visit www.ipata.org.


The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) is a non-profit, worldwide trade association for animal handlers, pet moving providers, kennel operators, veterinarians and others who are dedicated to the care and welfare of pets and animals during transport. The organization was founded in 1979. It began with six founding members and now has a global network of more than 447-member companies in 84 countries across the world. For more information, or to find a professional pet shipper, visit www.ipata.org.

Photo must be credited to: Air Animal Pet Movers LLC

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