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Tag: fees

Fraud runs rampant in online pet sales

yorkiepups2

If you’re planning to search online to buy a new dog, be warned: Up to 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links that will show up — like that one above for instance — may be fraudulent.

So might that particular photo of a particularly cute puppy, those purebred “papers” that the seller promises to send along, that pastoral setting in which a breeder’s kennel is supposedly located. And the dog being advertised? It might not even exist at all.

The Better Business Bureau last week issued a report warning that online pet sales scams are “victimizing Americans at an alarming rate.”

A growing demand for dogs and an increase in shopping online have combined to give scammers an unprecedented opportunity to promise to sell you a dog, and leave you much poorer and petless.

The BBB advises extreme caution — and never buying a dog from a breeder without visiting that breeder. Don’t let yourself fall in love with a photo and, as with online dating, be careful of getting your heart broken.

Fake pet sales have become so common that the attorneys general of three states — Ohio, Arizona and Virginia — have issued warnings to residents in the past year, the Washington Post reported last week.

The BBB report says many of the suspected fraudulent websites offering dogs are based in the West African nation of Cameroon, and that Cameroonians residing in the U.S. are being used to collect the money from victims through Western Union and MoneyGram outlets.

Several recent cases prosecuted in the United States involve links to Cameroon, including three Pennsylvania university students accused in May of peddling nonexistent boxer puppies online.

The BBB says a high number of victims of online pet marketing schemes are in their late teens or 20s

Such schemes are usually dependent on bogus, often sophisticated, advertisements to hook unsuspecting consumers.

“In the current digital age, it is no surprise that the first step in many people’s search for a new pet begins with the internet. Alas, even the most careful online search is likely to put a consumer in contact with a potential thief. Reports show there are thousands of people around the country, and the world, who have become victims of puppy scams, and many of these typically begin with a fake web site and stolen photos, often taken from a legitimate site,” the report said.

Greedy “sellers” rarely are satisfied with collecting a deposit; most will demand additional payments until the buyer finally becomes suspicious or runs out of funds.

The scammers often hit the prospective “buyers” with additional charges before any dog is even shipped.
While avoiding any in-person meeting with a potential buyer, they ask victims to send money to a supposed third party who will take over responsibility for transporting the animal. In addition to creating phony websites to advertise the animals, the thieves will develop bogus websites that appear to be legitimate transport companies.

Those who pay for pet shipping often are asked to buy or rent a special crate for the pet and requests for special insurance or shots for the animals. At times, the thieves may claim the pet is stuck at an airport in transit and additional money is needed for food and water.

If a customer balks, the fraudsters might inform them that, unless more money is forthcoming, the potential buyer could be charged with “animal abandonment.”

In one typical case a customer named Yahong Zheng of Omaha, Neb., ordered two huskies from the website huskieshaven.com. He forked over $1,200 and was asked for additional money before realizing it might be a scam.

Kanetria Hutcherson found a teacup Yorkie on the website usa.globalfree-classified-ads.com and wired the company a $195 shipping fee to transport the animal. Soon after wiring the $195 fee through MoneyGram, Hutcherson received an email appearing to be from Delta Air Cargo, claiming the animal needed a special crate before it could be put on the plane. She wired an additional $240.

After that she was told the dog had been transported as far as Oklahoma City, and she was instructed to purchase health insurance for the dog at an additional cost of $980. Later she received another email from Delta Air Cargo that asked for another $200; one instructing her to pay $150 for food and water for the animal; and another informing her the dog neeed to be quarantined at a cost of $1,900.

Not until she called the real Delta Air Cargo was she certain she was being duped.

Delta Air Lines last week filed a lawsuit against what it called a “bogus” site that dupes people into believing it provides pet transport services on Delta jets. The site is called DeltaPetTransit.com.

By then she’d paid nearly $1,000 for a dog originally advertised as free. While the dog was said to belong to a family in Baltimore, the same photo, it turns out, was used to advertise a puppy for sale in Florida, Texas, the U.K., New York, and Hungary.

The BBB Study suggests the actual numbers of pet fraud may be even higher than reported, because many victims either choose not to file complaints or do not know where to turn for help. BBB ScamTracker contains 907 reports on this type of fraud, which represents 12.5% of all their complaints involving online purchase fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission in 2015 found 37,000 complaints involving pets, and the vast majority of those are believed to be pet sales scams.

More information about pet sales scammers can be found at the website petscams.com, which tracks scamming reports victims and lists websites that have been linked to scammers.

Go ahead, make Eastwood’s day

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A statewide Empty the Shelters event Saturday was a huge success, with more than 2,500 dogs and cats being adopted from 65 shelters and rescues across Michigan.

Nearly 20 shelters managed to find homes for all their residents, including the Little Traverse Bay Humane Society — almost.

There, the only one not celebrating was Eastwood.

The red Labrador retriever, who has some vision problems and congenital leg deformities, found himself the only dog left in the shelter.

eastwood2“Poor Eastwood is so lonely now that all of his pals have been adopted,” the humane society said in a Facebook post.

“Eastwood is the only dog left at the shelter after Empty the Shelters on Saturday, but we know the perfect home is out there somewhere. This amazing boy has a few health issues that need to be addressed (which is why we think he was abandoned initially, poor guy!), but this boy is so sweet, we know it will be well worth it.”

The shelter estimated the future surgeries Eastwood may need could be more than $4,000.

“Although we understand this is a lot to take on for most families, we are committed to finding the perfect fit for Eastwood.”

Saturday’s Empty the Shelters event was sponsored by the Bissell Pet Foundation in hopes of reducing the number of animals euthanized each year. During the event, the foundation covers the adoption fees, which run about $150 per dog on average.

The late-breaking good news? After Eastwood’s lonesome mug appeared in a Facebook post, more than 80 people applied to adopt him.

Humane society staff picked the one that appeared to be the best fit, and Eastwood will soon be moving to his new home.

It was a few days later than every other dog in the shelter got adopted, but, happily, somebody made Eastwood’s day.

(Photos courtesy of Little Traverse Bay Humane Society)

Sheriff helps family get a new pet after their dog was killed during high-speed chase

ryanandchiliA 3-year-old  boy got a new dog this week, days after watching his first dog get struck and killed by a car fleeing sheriff’s deputies in Oklahoma City.

The boy and his family picked out the new pet, a Chihuahua mix named Chili, after Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel paid the adoption fees.

“You can never replace a pet, but I felt it was necessary that I do something to bring a smile to Ryan’s face,” Whetsel told KFOR.

“I have three dogs and I understand how much they mean to my family, so I just wanted to make sure Ryan had a four-legged friend to play with.”

Ryan was outside with his mother, Sarah Barrow, when a car being chased by deputies sped down the road — just as their 2-year-old Chow and Rottweiler mix, Red, was crossing it.

Red was struck by the speeding vehicle and died about 10 minutes later, and the incident was captured by a TV news crew that was in the neighborhood reporting another story — about crime problems in the area:

Deputies later arrested two suspects they said were in the car  and charged them in connection with three stolen vehicles.

Ryan had nightmares after that, his mother told the Oklahoman, and hadn’t slept for two days when Sheriff Whetsel called, offering to help the family get a new dog,

“When I found out that the bad guy had hit this dog, I just felt compelled to reach out and help them replace the dog for that little boy,” the sheriff said.

Barrow took him up on the offer, and the family went to Edmond Animal Welfare.

Though his parents were thinking of finding another big dog, Ryan seemed most drawn to a small one, Chili, who shelter staff named after the restaurant in whose parking lot he was found.

(Photo: Sarah Barrow and her son Ryan Underwood hold their new dog, Chili; by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman)

Rounding up unlicensed dogs in Ohio

The dog warden’s office in Allen County, Ohio, is living up to its antiquated name and conducting a sweep to ensure all dogs are licensed.

Almost 100 pets have been seized since the sweep began a few days ago, Examiner.com reports. Impounded dogs that go unclaimed after three days can be euthanized under Ohio law.

The dog warden’s office let pet owners know about the impending action last Thursday — or at least those that are Facebook friends.

“Hi all of our Facebook friends. Just wanted to let you all know why we haven’t posted adoptable dogs….. we don’t have any right now! Rescue groups have been able to take our adoptable dogs and we are very grateful they have the room because we have started our tag compliance check,” the office posted.

The post continues: “Every year we print a list of people that haven’t renewed their dog license, then we try to call as many as we can to see if they still have their dog. If they do we encourage them to get it within a given time. If they choose not to, then they can receive a citation or have their dog impounded or both. While out doing our compliance checks we are checking surrounding houses as well…”

In answer to a question on its Facebook page, the office said,  “…so far most have claimed their dogs the same or next day, which is great. If unlicensed dogs are not claimed after the legal holding time of 3 days the healthy, friendly adoptable dogs are offered to rescues … Yes, we do euthanize.”

Under Ohio law, dog owners must buy a license annually.

Owners of unlicensed dogs are subject to fines, in addition to having to pay double the price for a new license. They are also held responsible, if their pet is picked up, for covering the cost of boarding it at the pound. Law requires unlicensed dogs to be held for 3 days, and licensed dogs for 14 days, before they are turned over to a rescue or euthanized.

According to the Examiner article, pit bulls seized during the sweep might never make it back home.

Even though Ohio legislators removed pit bulls from the vicious dog list last year, cities may still enforce breed specific restrictions. The city of Lima, which is the Allen County seat, is one of those that still has a pit bull restriction in place.

“Allen County dog owners be warned,” the Examiner article says. “If your dog happens to be a pit bull, or one of the other dogs that Lima ordinance lists as vicious, your dog will not make it out of the Allen County Dog Pound alive.”

(Photo: One of the dogs seized in Allen County, Ohio / Examiner.com)

New York City Council bans tethering

The New York City Council yesterday voted to make tethering a dog or other animal for more than three hours a crime, punishable by fines and, for repeat offenders, a possible jail sentence.

First-time violators would receive a written warning or a fine of up to $250, if the animal is injured. A repeat offender could face a $500 fine and up to three months in prison, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Tethering an animal for an extended period of time is cruel and unusual,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “This bill will not only prevent this type of unnecessary cruelty, but also increase public safety for pedestrians throughout the City.”

The council voted 47-1 in favor of the bill, which prohibits leaving an animal tied up for more than three consecutive hours in any continuous 12-hour period.

The council also approved an increase in the cost of  annual license for dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered, raising the fee to $34 from $11.50.

Revenue generated from the incnrease will be used to subsidize animal population control programs.

BARCS waives adoption fees for rest of 2010

For the rest of 2010, adoption fees are being waived at BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter) for all dogs and cats over six months old.

Included for free with any adoption during the holiday special are spaying and neutering, rabies vaccination, DHLPP vaccination, bordatella, de-wormer, flea preventative, a general examination, a food sample, a month of free veterinary care insurance, and Felv testing for cats and kittens.

Normal adoption procedures apply, and Baltimore City residents will need to purchase a $10 pet license. Puppies and kittens under six months old are available for adoption at $65, through December 31, 2010.

People who would like to give the gift of an animal to some one else can purchase a BARCS gift certificate for $65.

To adopt an animal from BARCS. stop by the shelter (behind M&T Bank Stadium)  Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., call 410-396-4695 or visit BARCS  online.

BARCS is hosting a Holiday Open House at the shelter this Saturday, December11, and Sunday, December 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring cookies and punch and, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., photos of your pet with Santa. Photos are $10 each for a digital print and the proceeds will benefit the animals at BARCS.

Pay toll or die

Since I was in elementary school, I’ve had trouble distinguishing New Hampshire from Vermont. I know one of them is fat at the bottom and skinny at the top and the other is skinny at the bottom and fat at the top. I know one is directly east of the other. I know one is the “Live Free or Die” state (though it has always struck me as a rather bold assertion, coming from a license plate).

But — even though I’ve been to both — I’ve never been quite postive which was which. They are easily confused, at least in my head.

Heading north on I-95, I hit New Hampshire — or was it Vermont? No, it was New Hampshire — and was surprised to find myself suddenly coming to a toll booth.

Had I more carefully checked my maps, I would have known, by the green coloring, that portions of I-95 were toll; but I didn’t, so it was a rude awakening — kind of like going to the library and, halfway through a book, being told you’re going to have to pay to read the ending.

On top of that, it struck me as strange. Wait a minute, I thought. Isn’t this the “Live Free or Die” state? Sure, I know that the “free” the slogan refers to is the type we all take for granted, as opposed to the type that I’m always on the lookout for. Still, the two have a lot in common, viewed in an historical perspective — for taxation, and avoiding unfair forms of it, was a big part of America becoming America. So either way, it seemed ironic.

Unless, of course, I had it backwards and Vermont is the live free or die state.

In any event, I forked over my $2 — it seeming a far better choice than dying — and drove on.

A bit later, I stopped in the lovely little town of Portsmouth, N.H., for a quick drive-through and a pack of cigarettes. At a Sunoco station, I noticed some homemade dog treats on the counter and asked if they were made locally.

“In Vermont,” the proprietor answered. “The upside down New Hampshire.”

That got me confused again, temporarily. “And which state am I in?” I asked.

“This is New Hampshire,” he said.

“And which one is the live free or die state?” I asked.

“We are,” he said.

“Is that still the slogan?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “it depends how many more people from Mass. move up here. If that keeps happening we’ll just be dying.”

New Hampshire also uses I-95 to promote the sale of liquor in its state stores, and state lottery tickets.

In addition to exit signs for historical attractions, food, gas and lodging, New Hampshire prominently posts official signs on the Interstate for exits at which there are state liquor stores and state lottery outlets. It has yet to post signs for other vices — drug dealers, houses of prostitution, strip clubs and the like — but then again, it doesn’t run those operations.

We passed through but a sliver of New Hampshire, and will be visiting its northern reaches in another week or so, as Ace and I make our way back from the top of Maine. From previous visits, I know $2 was a small price to pay to see the White Mountains, in their full fall beauty, no less.

But I still have trouble with Vermont’s … I mean New Hamsphire’s … slogan. It strikes me as a little too drastic — a little too suicide bomber, a little too Toby Keith.

I think the slogan could use some editing. Here’s what I propose: “Live Free.”