International Pet and Animal Transportation Association
Tips for Pet Buyers:
Don't fall for scammers!
Do you know how weed out the dishonest seller when purchasing animals from an unknown source?
Below are some tips that may help prevent you from being scammed! The term "animals" can apply to puppies, kittens, birds, monkeys, horses or any other type of animal. Because we are an association involved with pets, below we may often use the term "pet" but please understand that scammers are involved with ALL types of animals in ALL countries!
When purchasing an animal from a breeder, broker, or a third party, the buyer should have a firm and binding contract with the seller, including the method of transportation, the time frame of the air transport, the airline of carriage, as well as a copy of the health certificate. For travel involving the USA, exact travel times and routings may only be revealed after travel is in process, by ruling of the TSA.
DON'T BE IN A HURRY! CHECK OUT THEIR REFERENCES:
Ask for references from other buyers in your state or country; then contact them.
Ask for names and phone number for shippers they have used in the past. If they indicate that a specific company will handle the shipping, get complete details for the shipping company and then telephone them - even if it's an international long distance call - to confirm that the shipping company even "knows" the breeder. And do this BEFORE you send any money!
If their website indicates that they are a member of IPATA, please look up their company name on our website. There are several companies whose websites claim to be a member of IPATA but they are not members nor have they ever been. If you cannot find the company listed, then send an email to and we will confirm whether they are a member or not.
If you only have an email address for a company, request their web address before forwarding any money. Email addresses are very easy to change and frequently used by scammers since they are often untraceable. Nearly all reputable breeders will have a website. If you only have an email address, be very cautious!
ANALYZE THEIR WEBSITE:
Look for inconsistencies, poor grammar and misspelled words on the website. For example, we found one website who lists a Seattle, Washington telephone prefix (206-XXX-XXXX) and a phone number in Cameroon yet says that it services the Washington D.C. area airports (IAD, DCA & BWI). It says they are licensed by the USDAT (There is no USDAT; it’s USDA) and that they are owned and operated by a “USDAT” accredited veterinarian. They are a member of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, yet they aren’t located in Texas and we aren’t even sure if they are located in the USA.
It seems that more and more scammers are now copying legitimate IPATA websites, including IPATA logos, member logos and of course much of the wording and even the testimonials. If their website indicates that they are a member of IPATA, please look up their company name on our website. There are several companies whose websites claim to be a member of IPATA but they are not members nor have they ever been. If you cannot find the company listed, then send an email to and we will confirm whether they are a member or not.
Look for misspelled words in their email address. i.e., or
Watch for phone numbers that start with +237 (or 00237) or +234 (or 00234). as "237" is the country code for Cameroon and "234" is the country code for Nigeria both of which are notorious for scams. However, scams can also originate from other countries (such as Cyprus or Benin or even the UK and USA). Often scammers will give you a phone number in their country but say they are located in a different one (or they service airports in a different country). To look up a country code to see what country it is, go to countrycallingcodes.com
Make sure that the seller has given you a telephone number. Then call it to make sure that a real person answers on the other end, even if it's a long distance international call.
If a company name is referenced in their email or website, do a Google search to research the company name. If you find the company's website, confirm that the person you are dealing with is part of this company. Scammers are now copying mastheads off of other company websites and including it in their emails so it looks like a legitimate company - but it isn't.
If the company has any licensing information listed on their website, independently verify it to ensure that it is valid. If you cannot find out who to contact to verify the licensing information, ask the company directly for a phone number for verification purposes.
In the USA, USDA requires licensing or registration of any company that is a breeder, a dealer, a transporter, a carrier (such as an airline) or is an intermediate handler (i.e., receives animals from one party to deliver to another – such as an airline). However, not all who are involved in these activities are licensed or registered with USDA even though it is, technically, a requirement. If you wish to look up a company to see if they are registered or licensed with USDA then click on “Facility Lists” toward the bottom of the page. (Note: Often a company may be registered under a different name than you may be familiar with such as a corporation operating under a DBA. You may need to match up a company by their address or other information. If you can’t find a company listed, ask the company for their USDA license number which can, then, be verified on-line.) Note: ONLY USA companies can be registered with USDA!
Ask for the registration of the breed and what association the seller is a member of.
Ask for a picture of the pet and a printed pedigree back 3 generations or more.