Updated: Mar 8

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer at podium cradling a puppy while a woman smiles and another man cradling a puppy stands next to him.

Los Angeles – Continuing his focus on protecting holiday shoppers, City Attorney Mike Feuer today warned would-be dog dads and dog moms about online puppy-selling scams, which are run by criminal organizations and have increased substantially in recent months. Joined by LA City Animal Services’ General Manager Brenda Barnette, and eight-week old Dancer, Dasher and Comet, he encouraged people looking for a new fur-baby to adopt and not shop.

"The cuddly pictures will steal your heart, but the criminals behind these puppy scams will steal your money, sometimes into the thousands,” said Feuer. “Most victims who are swindled never get a puppy at all, others get different dogs with health or genetic problems, and the majority of victims are too embarrassed to come forward. Puppy scams are one more reason to adopt and not shop.”

“If you are ready to add more love to your life and are considering a new dog or cat, visit one of our six Los Angeles City Animal Care Centers and meet some of our fantastic shelter guests who are hoping you will give them a home of their own before the holidays,” said Barnette. “The adoption fee for a dog is only $122 and includes vaccinations, a microchip, a city dog license and all pets are spayed or neutered. These great pets will repay you with joy for years to come.”

Puppy selling scams are simple. The scammer purports to offer dogs for sale via a custom website and ads on Facebook, Craigslist and other platforms. They interact with victims by email, text or over the phone to convince them they have a pet to sell. Once the victim is emotionally invested, they are easier to scam.

After the victim pays for the puppy, the scammer creates a website they claim the consumer can use to track the pet’s delivery. The victim is given a bogus tracking number too, which continues to make the scam seem legitimate. But, a day later, the victim typically receives an email saying delivery has been delayed, and that the victim is now on the hook for any number of new fees – delivery fees, cage fees, vaccinations, as well as other charges. The scammers’ delivery website is updated with this information too, which, again, continues to give the impression that the sale is legitimate.

If the victim pays the fees, the scammers often demand additional fees, until the victim either can no longer afford to pay or realizes they’ve been taken. By this time, the loss to the victim could be in the thousands.