Pet fraud in the UK rises 8 times

The Doctor

Staff member
Pups 4 Sale: Inside the Biggest Scam of 2020

Pups 4 Sale: Inside the Biggest Scam of 2020​

In June alone, British consumers spent over £325,000 on puppies that didn't even exist.

by Andy Jones

The most essential items of 2020 might have been N95 face masks, but not far behind were cute little designer puppies.

As the coronavirus lockdown shuttered the nation, slimming Britain’s leisure industry right down to “long walks near your home”, demand for puppies peaked spectacularly. By June, dog welfare organisation The Kennel Club warned that one in four prospective owners were spending less than two hours deciding before buying their new puppy, and the BBC reported that the average price of a pup soared from around £900 to £1,900.

Inevitably, puppy scams became rife, varying from cruelty cases – where unscrupulous breeders raised puppies in horrendous conditions – to straight up deception, with fraudsters using the pandemic as cover.


One family in Cornwall – having paid £1,800 for a Kennel Club-registered golden retriever puppy in “impeccable health” – drove ten hours to collect it from a London address, only to find no one there. "I feel incredibly stupid, to say the least, and should have known better,” said the buyer. “I started out at 3.30AM from Cornwall to London, went to the address, which was a real address, but obviously no person of said name."

Fraudsters even fleeced buyers for multiple payments, according to Action Fraud. A spokesperson told VICE World News, “They use COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions as a reason why the victim cannot come and see the animal first, and [say] they have to put down a deposit. After the initial payment, more and more funds will be requested to cover insurance, vaccinations and even delivery of the pet.”

These fraudulent ads are often the work of organised criminal gangs, who use female and male voices in their communications with prospective buyers to appear to be a “family” of breeders. They involve phone calls, real addresses and pictures and videos of available puppies.

According to Action Fraud, demand for investigations into this kind of puppy scam was nearly eight times higher than last year. This June there were 835 reported frauds, involving £326,933 worth of rip-offs, compared to 108 reported frauds in the same month last year (costing victims £60,409).

The UK’s largest pet sales site, Pets4Homes, blocked 40,000 adverts in just five months during the first national lockdown, either because the ads looked dodgy or the breeders didn’t look reputable. The breeds most commonly used in fraudulent ads, they say, are Staffordshire bull terriers, Pomeranians, labradors and golden retrievers....