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AG Nessel, Humane Society warn consumers of puppy scams during COVID-19 pandemic

Victims have paid for dogs that don't exist

Australian Shepherd dog.
Australian Shepherd dog. (WDIV/Kayla Clarke)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Humane Society of the United Sates are warning consumers about puppy scams as people try to purchase or adopt dogs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Nessel has reported a surge in complaints of internet scammers trying to exploit people who want to adopt a dog. Several Michigan residents have been tricked into paying for pets that do not exist. Because the thieves are usually located outside the country, the victim has a hard time ever getting that money back.

READ: Metro Detroit woman scammed out of thousands of dollars when she tries to buy puppy online

“Scammers are looking for any way to take advantage of consumers during this pandemic and puppies are unfortunately not exempt,” Nessel said. “While many people may be eager to bring home a puppy during this time, I urge Michiganders to be vigilant in their search to avoid being scammed. My office continues to prioritize protecting residents from predatory and deceptive business practices, and these puppy scams will ultimately result in heartbreak and financial loss. Always do your homework before making any purchase online to avoid being taken advantage of.”  

Scammers will also charge high fees to take advantage of victims.

“Taking advantage of Michiganders by exploiting our love of animals is as cruel to the people as it is to the dogs. We are very grateful to General Nessel’s office for taking this issue seriously,” said Molly Tamulevich, Michigan State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Since 2018, the Michigan Department of Attorney General has received nearly 50 complaints of alleged puppy scams - 26 of these complaints came in 2020.

Here are some tips to avoid a scam:

  • Research the breed 
  • Research the breeder 
  • Research the advertised puppy 
  • Do not purchase a puppy sight-unseen 
  • Use a credit card to make the purchase
  • Retain all documents and communications from the breeder
  • Consider contacting your local shelter

Michigan consumers who believe they have been a victim of a puppy scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team online


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