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How to avoid a puppy scam

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Since the COVID pandemic, 69% of Australian households now have a pet, and almost half of those pets are dogs. There was a huge surge in new puppy purchases during the COVID years, but unfortunately, this was accompanied by a surge in puppy scams as well. The ACCC reported that losses from pet scams increased by >1000% during 2020-2022.

Although there is increasing public awareness about this surge in scammers, it is scary how sophisticated some of these scams can be. Scammers can build entire elaborate websites, appear to have Breeder Identification Numbers or registration details, and may communicate with a potential buyer for long periods of time to make themselves look legitimate. Whilst some scams are obvious, unfortunately some have become very clever, and the warning signs can be subtle and difficult to spot.

Red flags to watch out for!

  • Poorly written ad with multiple spelling errors and minimal detail.

  • Low puppy prices – if it looks too good to be true… it probably is.

  • Sellers who will not do a video call with you or allow you to come to their property.

  • Sudden unexpected additional fees that were not initially advertised.

  • No trace of the breeder anywhere else online OR multiple websites with different names/brands but the same puppy advertisement.

  • Sellers who say their parent dogs are health tested or have a pedigree but won’t show you the health test or pedigree documents, even over the phone or in person.

  • Sellers who can't answer questions about the individual dog, the breed, common health or behaviour concerns, or their breeding organisation.

Black and tan puppy lying on floor next to the sofa

Checks to do on any online advertisement

Cross-reference the breeder's details on other sites

  • Are they a RightPaw breeder?

  • Do they have links to their social media?

  • If they say they are a member of a breeding organisation, can you check their membership status via that organisation’s website?

  • Does the breeder’s name or kennel name come up on a Google search?

Run a reverse-image search of their dog or puppy photos

  • You can do this by right clicking on the image and choosing ‘Search Image with Google’.

  • This can show you if the photo may be a stock image or has been stolen from another breeder’s website.

Ask if you can visit to meet the breeder

  • Ask if you can visit to meet the puppy, mother and littermates before you take the puppy home.

  • Ask if you can pick the puppy up from the breeder's property on puppy collection day.

  • If a visit is not possible, ask if you can at least have a video call with the breeder to meet the puppy over the phone, and get a feel for the breeder themselves.

  • If a breeder will not even speak to you on the phone... they are probably not responsible.

RightPaw website home page

Be safe - buy a RightPaw puppy

RightPaw is the safest place to buy a puppy online. Our team have individually interviewed every single breeder on our site and conducted a video inspection of their property and dogs. We have checked their registration numbers, confirmed these are not stolen and are up to date. We have ensured they are conducting health testing on their breeding dogs or can supply a Fit-To-Breed certificate from their vet. We can vouch for every breeder on RightPaw, as not only a real and traceable person, but also a responsible and ethical dog breeder.

For the safest online transaction, you can request to pay for your puppy through RightPaw Pay. This is our secure online payments system, which means no cash, bank or credit card details ever need to be shared with someone you don’t know.

Messaging your breeder via RightPaw’s messaging system means your conversation is traceable if anything were to go wrong. In the case of a dispute, any buyer who has used RightPaw Pay will have access to our dispute resolution support to help solve any problems that may arise. We are here to support you every step of the way.

If you have found a breeder elsewhere, check if they are listed on RightPaw by searching their name or kennel name on our site.

If you have had a great experience with a breeder who is not on RightPaw, please recommend they join us, to get recognised and verified as part of our community of responsible, trusted breeders.


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