Pet flipping is a real scam, and it’s on the rise.
In case you don’t know, this is basically an extension of dognapping. In a typical pet-flipping situation, a criminal will get hold of a pet for free, either by stealing it, seeing the animal in a “Pet Found” poster or ad on Craigslist and claiming to be the owner, or even being given the pet. This person then turns around and tries to sell the pet for a quick profit.
This is a huge cause for concern both for pet owners and also for anyone looking to buy a dog or cat.
Ads on Craigslist might say the person can “no longer afford to keep the pet,” but the price tag indicates he or she is more interested in making money than in securing a good home.
Take the case of Divina Mims, of Smyrna, Georgia, who posted an ad on Craigslist last spring, and thought she had found the perfect home for her Chihuahua, Munchie.
From CBS Atlanta:
“I just wanted him to go to a good home and money was not something I was trying to get for him,” Mims said.
That’s why Mims took a few days to screen potential new owners. Finally after searching and searching she found a family she believed was perfect.
“She was saying things like, ‘The dog would be for my daughter. She’s turning eight today, It’s her birthday,’” Mims tearfully told CBS Atlanta News. “I immediately gravitated towards that post because I have a daughter and I know how much joy Munchie brought us.”
However, when Mimms went on to Craigslist the next day to remove her ad, she discovered her dog was up for sale. And when she called the new owner to get her dog back, there was no answer.
Things went better for a family in Greenwood, Indianapolis. After Elizabeth Arroyo’s dog Raiden went missing in June, a friend forwarded a message showing what appeared to be the dog on Craigslist — not reported as found, but for sale. Arroyo and her dad met with the seller to make sure it really was Raiden and then settled on a sale price of $900. However, instead of going to an ATM to get the cash, they went to the police. Yay!
Recovering a lost or stolen pet can be difficult, if not impossible, so here are five tips on preventing pet flipping:
1. Get pets spayed or neutered so they can’t be used by criminals for breeding.
2. Make sure your pet has an ID tag at all times. Leashes wear out, pets slip through fences and some dogs simply cannot resist chasing a cat, but an ID tag with updated contact information will be your first step towards recovery. Check your dog or cat’s tag to make sure the inscription is still legible and the phone number is correct. You could even add an email address.
3. Even better, have a microchip implanted in your pets, and be sure that it is registered, so that they can be identified even if an identifying collar is removed. A microchip is no bigger than a grain of rice and is inserted under the pet’s skin. If your pet is recovered, animal shelters or veterinary clinics use a scanner to detect the chip’s ID number. Armed with that number, they can look up contact information, but only if the chip has been registered.
4. Take your animal to a reputable shelter rather than going through Craigslist or some other advertisement if you do need to find your pet a new home. Most shelters don’t have space or time limitations, and they definitely consider owner-surrender animals for adoption. Most shelters also have pretty strict rules for adoption, as I found out when I was visited twice by adoption counselors before I could adopt my cat Jaspar.
5. Never leave your pet unattended. Don’t tempt those people who see unattended animals as an invitation to steal, particularly if it is a popular breed or an unaltered dog.
6. Keep up-to-date photos, just as you should with any valuable possessions. If your pet does go missing, for whatever reason, you’ll be ready with that perfect picture to put on a flier. And if your pet is recovered, you may also need to prove ownership. Vet records should also be readily available.
7. Know what to do in case of a missing pet. Posting fliers around your neightborhood is important, but also go to free websites such as Lost Pet USA. Contact pet rescue organizations and shelters in neighboring counties, as well as asking friends and neighbors to join the search. Be sure to note any identifying marks, as these will make it very difficult for anyone to flip your pet.
Photo Credit: thinkstock