Puppy Adoption

How To Avoid Puppy Adoption Scams

Last updated on November 29, 2022

By Eric Schlabach

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While puppy adoption scams are nothing new, according to the BBB, nearly 10,000 scam complaints and reports have been filed in the last three years alone! 


With the advent of the internet, its now easier then ever for disreputable breeders and outright scammers to take money from innocent victims while delivering sickly, malnourished puppies or no puppy at all.

Protecting yourself from these kinds of scam artists, starts with educating yourself about them.

In this article, we aim to do just that! Keep reading to arm you with the knowledge you need to avoid puppy adoption scams and puppy mills.

What Is A Puppy Adoption Scam?

A puppy adoption scam is generally in the form of fake puppies posted online, or the scammer will pretend to be someone they’re not (such as an existing breeder) in an attempt to take money for a puppy that doesn't actually exist.

Other forms of puppy scams are known as puppy mills. While these will often actually deliver a puppy to the buyer, the puppy has been raised in dirty, cramped, and diseased quarters, and has not received proper care or nutrition.

Fortunately, when you know what to look for, it's relatively easy to ensure you're adopting a real, live puppy, from a reputable breeder.

avoid puppy adoption scams

How To Identify Puppy Adoption Scams

There are generally several key things that can tip you off to a potential scammer. 

> A "Free" Dog (Only pay shipping) This is a very common scam, where the buyer finds a "free" puppy, and only needs to pay for shipping. A general rule of thumb is, never give anyone money to ship a "Free" puppy - instead, ask to come pick it up yourself.

If it's a scam, they will likely stop responding, or make excuses as to why you can't pick it up. 

> Doesn't Let You See The Puppy  Another common telltale, is if the seller doesn't let you see the puppy in person or by updated photos or videos. A reputable breeder should be more than willing to provide you with good quality recent photos and/or videos of the puppy.

> Unusual or Sketchy Payment Reputable kennels will offer most common ways to make a payment, such as credit cards, checks, or payment apps such as PayPal or Venmo that has buyer protection. If the seller asks for gift cards or wire transfers as payment - run the other way!

> Bottomline If it's too good to be true, it probably is!

How To Avoid "Puppy Mill" Adoption Scams

Our definition of a puppy mill is any breeder or seller who breeds dogs purely for profit and doesn't care about the health and well-being of their adult dogs or puppies.

Many of these operations have their dogs in dirty, cramped, diseased and over-crowded conditions, and are often illegally operated.

It goes without saying that we heartily discourage anyone from supporting these types of breeders. 

Following are some ways you can make sure you're dealing with a reputable breeder, and not a puppy mill.

> Look for Reviews and Referrals The best places to adopt a puppy will have lots of good reviews and referrals from other individuals. (For example, check out our Facebook reviews.) 

> Ask Questions Reputable breeders aren't afraid to answer questions about their dogs, puppies, and their breeding practices. They should be knowledgeable and ready to answer questions regarding their puppy's personality, genetics, parents, and more.

> Look For Documentation (Or ask for it) Most reputable breeders have a quality website and a social media presence with lots of pictures, videos, previous puppies, and other forms of documentation. Don't be shy - Responsible breeders are happy to share about their dogs.

> Use Patience A puppy is an investment of money and time. A reputable breeder understands this, and will take the time it takes to find the perfect match.

Kathleen MMP Client

Find Your Puppy! 

Whether you're looking for a purebred dog, or a designer breed, doing the research and watching for the above warning signs, will help ensure that you have a rewarding puppy adoption experience!

If you still need help, or want to learn more about the 'Doodles we raise here in north-west Montana, please comment below, or shoot us an email. We're happy to help you find the puppy of your dreams! 

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About the author

Eric is a professional web designer, and copywriting geek, and a frequent contributor to the Mountain Meadow Puppies blog. He resides in Texas where he is the owner of Troyer Websites of Texas, a full-service digital marketing company.

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