Beware of internet pet scams

2015-10-15 06:00

INTERNET scams are rife and money is stolen from unsuspecting families who are taken in by unscrupulous people who prey on the kind heartedness of animal lovers.

The story lines vary slightly but they generally go like this:

A woman from South Africa has moved to the Cameroon to do work on an Aids project. She has taken her monkey, parrot, dog, cat, tiger cub or lion cub with her and is now looking for a good home for her pet back in South Africa since she does not have time to provide proper care. The animal is offered “free to a good home”. After the unsuspecting “victim” has been reeled in, fake travel confirmation from an airline is forwarded with a request for money to pay a refundable deposit to hire a ventilated electronic crate, as requested by the airline. The con artist states that she has spent all her money on the flight charges and is unable to pay anything further. She appeals to the good Samaritan to help. Needless to say, once the money has been received, the woman disappears and the awaited animal (who did not exist) never arrives.

Should you be a victim of a scam you should report the matter to the SAPS and open a case of extortion. It would also be advisable to lodge a complaint with the advertising website.

Real online sales

Legal as this trade may be, this system allows people to acquire animals without any counselling or advice. It is concerning that people choose a pet after viewing a snapshot and reading a sketchy description (which may or may not be accurate) about the animal’s background, temperament and behaviour.

Some issues brought to the attention of the NSPCA are consumer issues such as cross-bred dogs being advertised and sold as pure bred or pedigreed. This is also a case of buyer beware. Terminology is a give away. A “thoroughbred” is a horse. It speaks volumes about the ignorance of a breeder or seller when a dog is advertised as a thoroughbred.

Often times not only do people suffer emotionally but they also lose money when the pet they ordered falls ill soon after arrival. If you have received an animal which is not well and/or is too young to leave its parents, lodge a complaint with the Consumer Commissioner and with the advertising website.

The decision to open your home to a new pet is an important one – for you and for your prospective pet, and buying a pet you have never seen over the Internet is never a good idea. The best thing to do is to visit where the animal is born and see how the parent-animals are living.

Beware “free to good home”

It is noted that the internet has become an avenue for people to advertise “free to good home” pets when they move to a smaller property or emigrate. This certainly is an easy way to home animals but we caution that not everyone has your animal’s best interest at heart. Your good intentions may not hold positive results for your family pet.

Breeders and security companies have not been slow to recognise these openings and are quick to acquire “suitable” animals for their trade in this manner. Foreign nationals are also seizing “free to good home” opportunities as well as sourcing especially large breed dogs from Internet advertisements and taking them across South African borders into neighbouring countries. The fate of these animals is unknown.

Be an animal warrior: rescue a pet

The best way to protect yourself and slow the growth of the puppy and/or kitten mill trade is to source only from SPCAs and other welfare organisations. Individuals adopting from an SPCA will receive accurate information and they will be questioned about their ability to care for the pet they wish to offer a home to. Pre- and post- home checks take place and a legally binding agreement is signed by both parties.

The officially adopted Statement of Policy of the SPCA movement is to “discourage the keeping of domestic animals by those who do not have the facilities, time, financial means or level of interest necessary to ensure a satisfactory standard of care and husbandry for their pets” – domestic animals deserve to be loved, cared for, taken to the vet when necessary, played with, taken for walks and so on. SPCAs are careful to ensure that these qualities are available in all prospective homes.

Alternately buy your pets from bona fide breeders registered with the relevant organisations if a specific breed is required.


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