Last updated on March 23, 2015
The dog world is a breeding ground for catfish.
According to UrbanDictionary.com, catfishing is, “The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships.” It also applies to the pet world, too.
It’s 2015 and the Internet is not a “crazy temporary fad” early naysayers predicated. Lying, however, is a tale as old as time. People lie about all sorts of things, from age to height to weight and even appearance. Just yesterday, an ad for a new app to change one’s appearance peered out from my Facebook news feed. The Internet just makes it more transparent, and dare I say it: Easier and more readily available to lie.
Catfishing as it applies to the dog world is everywhere, but you might not realize it or maybe you never thought about it in this context. Here are five “bottom feeder” scams to be aware of and avoid:
Fake Service Dogs
Pet writer Amy Shojai penned an in-depth look at this phenomenon, stating, “Scammers offer fake credentials supposedly out of the goodness of their heart–but of course, for a fee. Both the fake-paper-pushers and the service-animal-fakers argue, “Who does it hurt? It’s a victimless crime.”
Businesses are hurt, legitimate service dogs and their handlers are hurt, and dogs in general gain a bad reputation. Tricking society into believing your dog is a service dog will ultimately catch up with you. Someone, somewhere is going to catch on. The more you do it, the more you increase the likelihood of getting busted. Dog help us all if your fake service pooch bites someone: You are in deep doo doo and sadly, so is the dog.
Reality: Real service dogs will not behave aggressively, interfere with other people by sniffing them or jumping on them, nor will they urinate inappropriately. Yes, service dogs have accidents. Business owners are in a sticky situation because they are only allowed to ask the following, according to the U.S. Department of Justice:
- Is this a service dog required because of disability?
- What is it trained to do to mitigate the disability?
Online Puppy Millers
According to StopOnlinePuppyMills.org, at any given time, there are 700,000 puppies for sale online. Being registered and having papers does not ensure a puppy did not come from a puppy mill. Refuse to shop at stores that sell puppies from puppy mills. Refuse to buy a dog online, especially if you never met the dog (and the pup’s parents, if possible). My first dog was a puppy-mill rescue, and this I know: I loved her more than life itself, and she had extensive health problems.
Most folks who purchase puppies from online breeders have no idea that they may be supporting animal cruelty or that many of the puppies are born in horrid puppy mills where the breeding dogs suffer. A beautiful website with gorgeous puppies frolicking in fields is often a guise for horrific substandard breeders churning out puppies for profit.
Reality: The Internet is a breeding ground for unscrupulous breeders who sell puppies born in squalor for a profit. Pre-Internet, folks could see the puppy in person and still be unaware of his or her background. For the Love of the Dog blog has a complete “watchdog” list of things to know before purchasing a puppy online. In most cases, it is a bad idea to shop for a pup online UNLESS you can visit the breeder in person and get recommendations, history, etc on the pup and parents.
Lost Dog Scams
This is a dog parent’s worst nightmare: Your dog goes missing. Predators call to say they have found your lost dog and will meet you at a public location to exchange the pet for a cash reward. There are also predators who target dogs online: They find out who you are, where you live, and in some cases, attempt to steal your dog.
Reality: Never give someone cash without seeing your lost pet first. Do not put any pet ID information in lost pet ads. Only put a partial description of your lost dog in the ad; scam artists will need to describe your pet in detail. Never list your home address in a lost dog ad. If you ever find yourself in the situation of having a lost dog, Vegas Rock Dog’s Samantha Ratcliffe shares dedicated tips for reuniting you with your lost dog here.
We all want to help that dog in need who needs expensive surgery and his dog parent is unable to afford it. Our heartstrings are tugged seeing these innocent live. Unfortunately, verifying the legitimacy of a campaign can be difficult.
Reality: According to tips from Crowdfundingguide.com, “Even though crowdfunding is rife with small startups that don’t have much of a business reputation to scrutinize, discerning fraudulent campaigns from legitimate ones really only requires that you follow one golden rule: if a campaign makes you a promise that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Social Media Fakers
I’ve been burned by folks who claim to be someone or even claim to have a dog and they don’t: It is rare that you can actually find out if someone is telling the truth about dog ownership. When it does become apparent that someone is lying about who they are and/or your gut tells you otherwise, proceed with caution. As a dog blogger and writer, it is impossible to avoid phonies and liars, but I do tread lightly in their presence. There are also people out there who troll and spam online and try to incite riots, so to speak. Ignore them, ban them, but don’t feed the trolls.
Reality: Don’t believe everything you read online or in person. Be extremely cautious with the personal information you share online. The FBI even has an Internet Crime Complaint Center .
Did we miss any online dog-related scams of which you are aware?