Puppy scams - have you been affected?

Have you recently been the victim of a puppy scam? The CHOICE Editorial & Investigations team is working on an investigation into puppy scams, focusing in particular on the damage they have caused over the past few years.

The ACCC has reported these sorts of schemes, where aspiring dog owners pay up-front for puppies advertised online that never arrive, spiked at the beginning of the pandemic.

We want to see how much of a problem these scams are and hear the experiences of those affected, so we can give the best advice we can on how to avoid being ripped-off.

So, if you or someone you know has been the victim of a puppy scam within the last two years, let us know and we can get in touch directly to discuss further. Thanks!


I have had dogs all my life and just got a new pup six weeks ago. I have not been affected by any scam because I have never bought a dog sight unseen, that is the only advice I can give. As well as avoiding financial loss it avoids heartache. I am talking strictly about pets, not dogs for breeding or showing.

My method is to visit the owner at home and meet the parents of the pups and all the pups as soon as they are old enough. I may have to go back later when the selected pup is old enough to leave the mother. For the last pup I drove 2 1/2 hours there and back and did not regret it.

If you follow this approach:

  • You meet the owner and get to talk to them about their dogs, see the environment and check on documentation. You also have a name and address if there are problems.
  • You can meet the parents and see what sort of conformation they have, check that they are healthy and judge their temperament.
  • Meeting the pups allows you to see if the litter is healthy and that the are as advertised. You cannot judge the conformation of an 8-week old pup - they all look like pups. You may be able to judge if the litter is actually of the parents as ring-ins will likely stand out. Most of all you can gauge the temperament of the pups. Sitting on the grass with puppies all over you for half an hour will tell you much. The last one chose me and she is brilliant.

I can hear the complaints that there are no flapdoodles, or whatever the latest fad breed may be, within reasonable travelling distance. Well this is where you have to make a choice; do you want a good dog that is what you paid the money for or do you want the latest fad. You pays your money and you takes your choice.


I competed in and judged obedience trials . I also competed in retrieving trials with my gun dogs . Brittanie’s were the breed I favoured for gun work and in obedience Shetland Sheep dogs .

Some breeds are very prone to hip dysplasia . If buying a German Shepheard , Labrador or Australian Cattle dog ( Blue Heeler ) and other breeds have shown HD is on the rise . Ask the breeder for a a vets certificate that shows the parents are HD free .

HD is an insidious and crippling disease in dogs . Unfortunately the "puppy farms " of yesteryear have led to it being passed on into the blood lines of many breeds due to breeding for profit not quality .


Here’s Liam’s article on pet scams. We received some data from the ACCC on the issue and fair to say the size of the problem is huge, and as with a lot of scams, people often don’t want to talk about it if they’ve been a victim.


There are very strong parallels between the pet scams described in the article with machinery or equipment scams that have been dissected on these pages. A number of aspects are the same:

  • It’s all a web illusion, there is nothing of substance behind it.
  • Using images, words, personal details, addresses etc from other sources including real businesses, sometimes directly impersonating them.
  • The price and availability are too good to be true.
  • The vendor often attempts to use time pressure to get your money quickly before you have time to think it through or do too much checking. After all a real bargain will be snapped up very quickly.
  • Advertising is on respectable sites and can be very polished as can the scammer’s own web site.

Sadly the pet scammers have an added advantage. Few will get emotionally attached to the idea of buying an excavator but they will to images of the cutest puppy or kitten. Some will double check the details of excavator as it is a business decision but how many will treat buying a pet the same?

Requiring to see the animal before you buy will not only sort out the phantoms but also the puppy mills that sell a real product that is inferior or misrepresented.