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Tag: sale

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.

Eating dog meat banned in Taiwan

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In a landmark piece of legislation, Taiwan has outlawed the consumption of dog and cat meat.

The island’s legislature yesterday passed an amendment to its animal protection laws, imposing longer prison sentences and stiffer fines for harming animals, and explicitly banning the slaughter, sale and consumption of dogs.

The island’s official Central News Agency (CNA) said the new law reflects the transition of Taiwan “from a society in which dog meat was regularly consumed” to one where “many people treat pet cats and dogs as valued members of their families.”

The amendment also bans “walking” pets on leashes pulled by cars and motorcycles.

The amendment comes after a series of animal abuse cases, and a strong push by animal lovers and the animal welfare movement.

Last year, a group of military personnel beat and strangled a dog and tossed its body into the ocean, an assault that was captured on video.

The amended act calls for fines between $1,640 to $8,200 for people who eat or sell dog meat, and up to $65,000 for deliberately harming an animal.

Violators of the new law may also see their names, photos and crimes publicized, Taiwan’s Central News Agency said.

Previously, the Animal Protection Act, passed in 2001, only covered the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat, and not individual consumption.

The new law makes Taiwan the first Asian state to impose a full ban on both the marketing of dog meat and its consumption.

The amendment’s sponsor, Kuomintang Legislator Wang Yu-min, said that while some localities already had measures banning dog and cat meat consumption, national legislation was needed, according to the China Post.

China has long been criticized for its annual dog meat festival in Yulin, where as many as 10,000 dogs are slaughtered and served as meals.

Opposition to the consumption of dog is growing in China, and in South Korea, where some are pushing the government to impose restrictions on the dog meat trade before the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul.

Will quest for profits bring end to dog park?

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Will the city of Watertown, N.Y., pull a fast one and, in a blatant quest for profits, sell land intended for a dog park to a developer?

The city council is considering it, though it took no such action Monday night.

Even though signs announcing the new park are already up, even though citizens have raised $3,000 of the $80,000 needed to open it, even though the land has been designated as parkland and the city accepted grants to accomplish that … a developer’s offer of money for the land is being considered.

Last week, the city received an offer from developer P.J. Simao to buy the land allotted for a dog park at Factory Square, Fox 28 in New York reported.

Simao’s offer came after plans started months ago to turn the site from some unused green space with a trail going through it into what some say would be a focal point for the city’s efforts to revitalize the Factory Square Park neighborhood.

So who will win out? Dogs, dog owners, citizens, community revitalization and the environment? Or one developer, and the city’s hunger for bucks — both from the immediate sale and in terms of future property tax revenue?

“To have that property back on the tax rolls, I think, would be beneficial to us,” council member Steve Jennings said at the Monday night meeting.

The Watertown Daily Times reports that Jennings introduced the proposal to sell the land to the developer, saying the city could use the money generated from the deal for the dog park and relocate it someplace else.

We’ll assume he’s talking about relocating the park, and not the money.

Fortunately, there are a few obstacles in the way of what Jennings probably sees as progress.

And it will probably be one of those obstacles — as opposed to lying to and deceiving dog owners and all those who have donated to the project — that, if anything can, stops the sale.

Factory Square is designated park land and was built with grant money, and selling it would involve going through the state and the National Parks Service.

“I think it’s intentionally made to be a difficult process,” City Planner Ken Mix said. “The purpose for putting the money into park land was to provide park land and to keep it as park land.”

“It’s not that I’m anti-development or anti-free money,” Mayor Jeff Graham said, “it’s just I don’t see that park land hurdle as something the city can overcome.”

The city’s consideration of the offer also hamstrings those trying to raise money for the dog park.

“We’re at a halt right now,” said dog park supporter Erin Gardner, who’s also director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

“There’s nothing that we can do,” Gardner said. “I ask that council not delay the decision-making process in this so that we can stay on this momentum.”

A better question to ask might be why the offer is even being considered — given the commitment the city had already made to the dog park. Why wasn’t the developer just told that land is not for sale?

The city council of Watertown should keep its promise — they should take a lesson from dogs and should show those they are serving a little loyalty, no matter how much money drooling developers are dangling in front of them.

(Photo: Watertown Daily Times)

Raising funds to provide therapy dogs for victims of sex trafficking

A non-profit organization has launched a campaign to sell dog collars and leashes to raise money to place therapy dogs in homes and shelters serving sex trafficking victims.

Eye Heart World, an organization that creates products to raise funds and awareness for social causes, is launching a campaign called “Walk the Cause” this week.

The sale of every leash and collar set will go toward purchasing therapy dogs to help victims of human trafficking.

The dogs will be placed in aftercare homes for victims and used in court during the interview process.

“These wonderful pups provide a sense of security, comfort, and something these girls will desperately need in this time of restoration,” the organization said in a press release.

It’s similar to a project the organization started in January of 2010 — called “Carry the Cause” — which sold handbags. All American made, each handbag bears an orange rose, the color representing human trafficking awareness.

Under the “Walk the Cause” project, $100 from the sale of every leather leash and collar set goes toward placing therapy dogs in homes and facilities to help victims of human trafficking.

The first dogs will likely placed at facilities in Atlanta and Denver, according to Eye Heart World founder Season Russo. The dogs will be purchased from Smeraglia, a dog breeding company, and will be trained by Teddy Bear Goldendoodles.

How much is that balloon dog at the auction? Would you believe $55 million?

orange dog

Chances are you could find an unemployed party clown who would make you a balloon dog for a pretty reasonable price, if not for free.

Or you could buy this one — for $35 million or so.

Artist Jeff Koons has made five “Balloon Dog” sculptures over the years, but this one — his first — will be auctioned off by Christie’s in November. “Balloon Dog (Orange)” has an estimated price tag between $35 million and $55 million.

And if you think that’s too hefty a price to pay for a 12-foot, stainless steel sculpture of a balloon dog, consider this: Koons, while he conceives his works, often doesn’t do the actual hands-on work himself, relying instead on a team of assistants.

Koons set a personal record last year when his sculpture, “Tulips” sold for $33.7 million at Sotheby’s.

“Balloon Dog (Orange)” is being sold on behalf of the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. Proceeds from the sale will be used to help fund future activities of the foundation, according to ABC News.

It is one of five metallic dog pieces produced by Koons. The other dogs are yellow, blue, magenta and red and are owned by wealthy businessmen who, we’d guess, probably don’t have time for real dogs.

On its website, Christies calls the work “one of the most recognizable images in today’s canon of art history…

“This monumental work, with its flawless reflective surface and glorious color, is the most beloved of all contemporary sculptures. Its spectacular form has been celebrated around the world, having graced the rooftop of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venice’s Grand Canal, and Versailles Palace outside Paris. It has become an icon of Popular vernacular, adored by the public and collectors for its unabashed celebration of childhood, hope and innocence.”

If a symbol of unabashed innocence isn’t worth $55 million, what is?

(Photo: Christies.com)

Court affirms that piercing cats is cruelty

Piercing kittens is cruel, a panel of Pennsylvania judges has affirmed.

Three judges of the Superior Court upheld a conviction for animal cruelty of a dog groomer who had offered “gothic” kittens for sale on eBay.

An investigation into the pierced kittens began in 2008 when a citizen saw the animals being offered for $100 each on eBay, inquired about them and reported it to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County, according to the Times Leader in Wilkes Barre.

A citizen tipped off PETA, as well, which conducted an investigation of its own and passed on information to the SPCA.

Accompanied by state police, SPCA officials visited Pawside Parlor, located at the home of Holly Crawford in Sweet Valley, Pa. They removed three kittens and a cat. While at the home, police also found a dog with pierced ears.

A jury found Crawford guilty of animal cruelty, and last year she was sentenced to six months of home detention and electronic monitoring, followed by probation.

In her appeal, Crawford argued that Pennsylvania’s cruelty statutes were too vague, and pointed out that many accepted veterinary procedures like declawing cats and cutting a dog’s vocal cords could fall under the same category she was being prosecuted under.

The law forbids “acts that maim, mutilate, torture or disfigure the animal.”

This week, the Superior Court panel upheld the lower court’s findings, the New York Times reported.

In a 19-page opinion, Judge Kate Ford Elliott wrote that “metal protruded from the kittens’ small bodies, pierced through their ears and necks, and at least one of these kittens also had an elastic band tied around its tail, an attempt at docking …”

Crawford, who was described in the opinion as being “enthusiastic about piercing,” had admitted to piercing the kittens without anesthetic.

“Appellant’s claims center on her premise that a person of normal intelligence would not know whether piercing a kitten’s ears or banding its tail is maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring an animal.” Judge Elliott wrote.  “We disagree.”

Michael Vick’s former house sits empty

I’m not sure why I wanted to visit 1915 Moonlight Road – maybe for the same reason people visit Nazi death camps, Ground Zero and other scenes of slaughter.

Maybe it’s in part to pay respects to those who died and suffered, in part to remind ourselves of how evil man can be – that whole business about keeping history fresh enough in our minds that we don’t allow the mistakes of the past to be repeated.

Maybe (last maybe, I promise) that’s also why you still find Michael Vick stories on ohmidog! and elsewhere – not so much because we want to keep punishing a man who has paid what the courts decided was his debt, but because we think the public, and public officials, need to keep it fresh in their heads, and do all in their power to wipe out the ongoing scourge of dogfighting.

Our travels having taken us to Virginia — and having recently finished reading “The Lost Dogs,” the new book by Jim Gorant that recounts the horrors that took place at Vick’s country estate and the redemption of the dogs that survived them  — a trip to 1915 Moonlight Road seemed, while morbid, somehow in order.

So Ace and I headed from Norfolk up Highway 10 through Virginia’s tidelands, past the meatpacking plant in Smithfield, and turned left down the narrow road, where homes are few, far apart and – unlike the one Vick had built — mostly modest.

It’s a two-story, 4,600-square-foot, white brick home, with five bedrooms, four and a half baths and master bedroom suites on the first and second floor. It has several outbuildings, a pool and a basketball court; and the real estate listings — which make no mention of the former owner — note that there’s a kennel, too.

Yes, Michael Vick’s former house is available, and has been ever since Vick sold it before heading off for his prison sentence.

The private individual who bought it then has it listed at $595,000 – a price that is $152,000 under its assessed value. In other words, it’s a bargain – if you don’t mind the fact that it’s haunted. How could it not be – after what the 51 dogs seized from Bad Newz Kennels had gone through, not to mention the eight more murdered dogs that were dug up behind the home and removed as part of the investigation?

The house, which has sat empty for nearly three years, has more recently — amid the sluggish real estate market — been offered for rent as well. The price is $2,500 a month.

There was no open house on the day we dropped by — no one around at all. Taking heed of a sign on the gate that warned “Keep Out, Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted Even the U.S. Army,” Ace and I kept to the perimeter of the property, across the street from a small white Baptist church.

Usually, when Ace gets out of the car he commences to sniffing and excitedly exploring for minutes on end. But here he behaved differently. He walked up to white metal gate, sat down and stayed perfectly still, staring inside for what had to be three full minutes.

I won’t read anything into that.

Vick bought the 15-acre property in 2001 — for the purpose of setting up a dogfighting operation. For two years, only a trailer occupied it. In 2003, he had the custom built house constructed, though he never lived in it full time.

A Long and Foster agent told me yesterday that the house’s prolonged period on the market is probably more a result of the housing slump than its shameful legacy — my words, not her’s. She said there is a prospective renter, but that a deal has yet to be finalized.

Not too many who have looked at it have been driven away upon learning its history, but then again, that history is not on the property sheet.

While there was an animal welfare group that sought to raise funds, buy the property and turn it into a sanctuary for animals, the agent said that plan was apparently dropped. The group thought that it would be a triumph of sorts to turn Michael Vick’s old house into a place that helped dogs.

But it’s hard to get over an awful past — whether you’re a dog, a person or a house. While Vick’s dogs have shown it can be done, and while Vick insists he has reformed, his former house remains in limbo.

As for Ace, he eventually came out of his trance, sniffed around the shrubs in front of the house and did his business.

I won’t read anything into that, either.