Beware of 'Pet Traffickers' Trying to Adopt Your Family Pet
By Tracy Vedder
SEATTLE - They pretend to want to adopt your family pet; to give your dog or your cat a good, loving home.
But, in fact, they're pet "traffickers". And if you give Rover or Fluffy to them, it will be the last trip they'll ever make.
Thousands of dogs and cats wind up in need of a good home every year. But many shelters are full to overflowing.
So when families must find a new home for their pet, where do they turn?
More and more, they turn to the Internet. Sites like Petfinder.com, Craigslist, or even on-line classifieds, all make it easy to put pets up for adoption.
Petfinder.com says in their 10 years, they've helped find homes for 10 million pets.
"Our shelters and rescue groups tells us that it has more than doubled many of their adoptions," said Vice President Kim Saunders.
But the Web also makes it easy for the wrong people -- pet traffickers -- to get their hands on family pets. We discovered the scam when a viewer sent us e-mails she received, as she tried to help a neighbor find a new home for their cat.
Like the viewer, we advertised the 9-year-old cat on Petfinder.com. We asked Pasado's Safe Haven to take a look at three responses from Utah, Washington, D.C. And Boston.
"That is something that is a red flag right away," says Rita Morgan from Pasado's Safe Haven.
Each e-mail was poorly written, offered a family home, and said they'd have their shipping company pick the pet right up.
"All of these are completely suspect in every way," adds Morgan. She believes the last thing these e-mails offer is a loving home.
Instead, Morgan says pet traffickers troll these Web sites for animals for puppy mills, as bait dogs for fighting, and for use in research labs.
"As long as they can make money, as long as there's a bottom line involved, they have the incentive to keep doing it," she said.
Petfinder.com doesn't believe it happens often, but admits, it does happen.
"But it's really important that the public know that there are bad actors out there," agrees Saunders, "and people that are looking to pull a scam."
It's a word to the wise to anyone hoping to find a forever home for a pet they just can't keep -- make sure you know the home they're going to.
There are some basic precautions recommended by both shelters and classified Web sites:
Make sure to ask for a reasonable adoption fee, at least $40 to $50.
Try to find a local home, so you can inspect it and the people in advance.
And don't be afraid to ask questions and ask for references, particularly from a vet.
All of those will help ensure your pet finds a good home.