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Humane Society of United States joins AG Nessel to Warn Consumers of Online Puppy Scams Ahead of Holidays

LANSING Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Humane Society of the United States are urging consumers to be wary of puppy scams as many people seek to purchase or adopt dogs during the holiday season. 

Many people enjoy gifting kittens, puppies and other pets to loved ones during the holidays, which creates an atmosphere ripe for scammers to exploit. Michigan residents in recent years have been tricked into paying for pets that do not exist or have adopted pets with undisclosed health or behavioral complications. And because these thieves are often outside the country or selling independently, the prospects of getting money back are extremely low.   

“Scammers are looking for any way to take advantage of consumers during the holidays and puppies are unfortunately not exempt,” Nessel said. “While many people may be eager to gift a furry friend during this time, I urge residents to be vigilant in their search to avoid being scammed. My office continues to prioritize protecting residents from predatory and deceptive business practices, and these puppy scams will ultimately result in heartbreak and financial loss. Always do your homework before making any purchase online to avoid being taken advantage of.”  

In addition to the deceptive practices of advertising puppies that do not exist or charging exorbitant fees, scammers are taking advantage of the holiday season as they use it as a reason to avoid in-person visits and demand additional fees.   

“Taking advantage of the holiday season by exploiting Michiganders’ love of animals is as cruel to people as it is to the dogs. For families looking to confidently adopt a happy, healthy pet, we encourage folks to skip pet stores and online sellers and visit one of our state’s many shelters or rescues, which are full of animals looking for their forever homes,” said Blake Goodman, Michigan State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “HSUS is happy to partner with Attorney General Nessel to warn residents about pet scams to keep families and pets safe.” 

Attorney General Nessel released a Public Service Announcement in 2020 with tips to help consumers spot and avoid puppy scams. Consumers should remain hyper-vigilant and use these best practices:

  • Make sure the person you’re gifting the pet to wants the pet and is ready for ownership.
  • Research the breed and breeder.
  • If the breeder claims to have registered the puppy, research the pet.
  • Do not purchase a puppy sight-unseen.
  • Arrange for safe transport of the pet.
  • Use a credit card to make the purchase.
  • Retain all documents and communications from the breeder.
  • Consider contacting your local shelter for adoption.

Each year, consumers in the U.S. spend more than $1 billion buying puppies without realizing they may be doing business with scammers, puppy mill operators, or both. Puppy mills are inhumane dog breeding operations that keep dogs in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions and, depending on location, many are not regulated or inspected. Breeders hide their poor conditions by meeting buyers at offsite locations or selling through pet stores or online. 

Michigan consumers who believe they have been a victim of a puppy scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team online


The Attorney General and Humane Society of the United States will be hosting a media avail to discuss puppy scams today at the Holiday Novi Pet Expo at 3:15 pm in the Suburban Collection Showplace. Credentialed media should RSVP.

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