In Savannah Morning News Column

January 8, 2015

Savannah, GA – Know the signs of dog-flipping
Lynn Gensamer, Executive Director

It will come as no surprise, given my position with the Humane Society, that people enjoy telling me stories about  their pets. Recently, I met someone who had purchased an adorable puppy she found advertised on Craigslist. The seller had a sob story about how the costs of taking care of this puppy were far greater than she had expected so she was looking to find it a new home. She claimed to have gotten it from a breeder, whose name she provided as a reference. The new owner explained that she had called and felt reassured by the fact that the Pekapoo “breeder” recommended a premium dog food brand. Note: any legitimate breeder will accept a return; in fact, in most cases the breeder sales contract requires that a dog be returned.

Sounded to me as if the new owner was a victim of a dog-flipping scam. Hopefully, she and her puppy will have a long happy life together. Too frequently that is not the outcome. So what is dog-flipping? In a typical pet-flipping situation, a criminal gets hold of a pet – either by stealing it or claiming to be the owner of the pet in a “Pet found” poster, on Craigslist or in the newspaper. Then, the criminal sells the “free” pet for a quick profit, frequently through a service like Craigslist. “Adoption fees” on flipped animals are usually very reasonable, leading the buyer to believe that he or she is getting a “bargain” especially for what is or appears to be a purebred.

It’s unclear how organized and strategic pet thieves and dog flippers are, but in some cases it appears as if criminals target their prey very carefully. Often, the dogs that disappear are very valuable and used for breeding: puppies can command a higher price.

Clearly, dog owners need to be concerned and cautious. Make certain your pet has a microchip that is registered with your current contact information and that your dog is spayed or neutered, eliminating the potential for breeding. Take photos of your pet to provide proof of identification. Photograph any identifying marks your pet may have, including scars or unusual markings. Then save these photos! Only Animal Control is legally authorized by law to handle lost and found for Chatham County; therefore, if you find a stray, take it to Animal Control. And, if your animal goes missing, go to Animal Control to see if your pet has been turned in, and to file a report.

People looking to acquire a pet also should be on the alert. Flippers are not interested in pets or in an animal’s welfare. They are motivated by money. They disappear once they have your money so it’s impossible to return a dog should problems arise. When your pet has its first vet visit, scanning will reveal the true owner of a previously microchipped pet. Then what?

A shelter is the BEST place to start when you are ready or even just considering adding a pet to your family. Animals are in shelters through no fault of their own. They make fabulous pets. Humane Society personnel know their residents and can help you find the right pet for your situation. And… all our pets are microchipped and spay or neutered. Come visit.