How much is that doggy on the website?
Bae is a 19-week-old Siberian husky with tawny brown markings and cerulean eyes. She’s available for $1,500 on the website of Theresa Rosales, a breeder who is licensed by the Department of Agriculture and offers AKC registrations for all puppies she sells out of her Hamer, S.C., home. Photos show the pup standing near a wooden fence and bright red roses.
One of those photos can also be found on websites called candyhuskies.us and diamondhuskies.us. On those sites, however, Bae is called Tilla and she’s listed at the much lower price of $600. Neither site lists the name or location of a breeder and they encourage potential customers to email.
Bae’s alternate identity is no surprise to Rosales, who said her puppies’ photos are regularly copied and used on other sites that claim to sell dogs. And it’s no surprise to officials at the Better Business Bureau, which has released a report warning that online pet sales scams are “victimizing Americans at an alarming rate.”
This kind of scam happens like much online fraud, the report said: A product is advertised on a professional-looking site. Customers are asked to wire the purchase price and then they’re asked for additional fees. In the end, the product is never delivered.
The bureau says its ScamTracker website has received more than 1,000 complaints about such faux puppy enterprises and its investigation cited a 2015 Federal Trade Commission internal report that found a majority of 37,000 pet-related complaints involved fraudulent sales.
“I knew this was a problem, but it’s worse than I thought,” said Steve Baker, a Better Business Bureau international investigations specialist who wrote the report. “This has just saturated the internet.”
Baker said several victims he spoke to lost thousands of dollars and ended up brokenhearted.
One California mother, he said, was bilked out of nearly $1,000 for a teacup Yorkshire terrier puppy for her 10-year-old daughter who “was going to bed crying every night” as the supposed sellers delayed the dog’s arrival. At one point, the sellers told the woman the puppy was stuck at an airport in Oklahoma, then threatened to report her to the FBI for “animal abandonment” if she did not pay an additional $980 for pet health insurance, Baker said.
Fake pet sales have become so pervasive that the attorneys general of three states — Ohio, Arizona and Virginia — have issued warnings to residents in the past year.
Tracking Bae’s online presence provides one journey into the vortex of this faux online marketplace. Right click on her photo on Rosales’ website, loyalsiberianhusky.com, and a Google image search turns up her photos on Candy Huskies and Diamond Huskies. Those sites’ “About Us” sections have several paragraphs of generic information containing these lines:
“We are parents of four children and five grandchildren. Our oldest daughter is married and has three boys and lives down the road from us. Our son is in the Air Force and just recently became engaged and our youngest daughter lives nearby and has a three month old baby boy.”
A Google search for those sentences locates them on all sorts of sites, including one for Evans Siberian Huskies Pet Home. The single, misspelled testimonial on that site is next to a photo of a young woman holding a husky puppy — an image that can be found on various websites.
Animal protection advocates say all this underscores the importance of seeing a potential pet in person, both to ensure it exists and to get a look at the breeding setting. Or, as John Goodwin of the Humane Society of the United States put it: “Show me the mommy.”
“If they’re not going to go to a rescue or shelter, at least invest enough time to meet the breeder in person and meet the mother dog to ensure that you’re not dealing with a puppy mill.”
Theresa Rosales’ website offers Siberian husky puppies for sale, with numerous photos of those that are available and those that have been sold. Some of those photos show up on fraudulent sites, where customers pay for pets that don’t exist.
This husky puppy is available from Theresa Rosales for $1,500. Fraudulent sites will use the photo, or others like this one, to offer nonexistent pups at huge discounts.