PORTLAND -- Pet lovers looking to add a new pet to their family should watch out for online advertisements with cute photos of puppies.
The people selling those pets and showing those pictures may not have a pet for sale at all. They could simply be after people's money, and taking advantage of vulnerable pet lovers to get it.
“It’s a very tough time. It’s way harder than I thought it would ever, ever be,” said Lisa Stephenson who lost two beloved family dogs in a year.
Like most pet lovers, Stephenson grieved the loss of her pets and then began searching for a new ones. When she responded to an online ad in the Pennysaver, she said she thought her search was over.
“I saw three little Yorkies, and they had pictures of them. They had bows in their hair. They were so cute. And they were $215 each," she said.
But soon after Stephenson responded to the advertisement, she said things got a little strange. The seller told her she had moved to the Seattle area and would only communicate by text message or email.
Stephenson offered to drive to the Seattle area to pick up the puppy, but the seller told her she could not. Instead, the seller told her she would ship the puppy to the nearest airport, and she could pick up the puppy there.
“No you can’t pick her up,” said Stephenson, recalling what the seller had told her. “I was like, 'Why can't I pick her up?' And they're like, 'We have to ship the dogs,'” Stephenson said.
She wanted to know why, and so did KGW's Unit 8.
KGW called the phone number listed with the advertisement, and got a voice message saying, “The person at extension 19103900745 is unavailable.”
So KGW tracked the number and found it was registered to a location in Maxton, North Carolina. When KGW tracked the shipping company, offering to ship the puppy for $215, KGW found it registered to a location in Camilla, Georgia.
“It is a scam that’s in the paper and I have no doubt that there's probably no puppies involved in this,” said Barbara Baugnon of the Oregon Humane Society.
The Oregon Humane Society offers a guaranteed adoption and comes with an on-site pet hospital services and behavior services. Luckily, for Lisa, instead of sending the $215, she called Unit 8.
She's still looking to add to her family, only now, she's looking more carefully.
"It does hurt more. We were really looking forward to having another Yorkie. She was a great dog. She was a great family dog,” Stephenson said.
When Unit 8 brought Stephenson’s story to the attention of the Oregon Humane Society, they offered to waive the adoption fee for Stephenson and her husband.
They can come to OHS and pick out the newest member of their family, free of hassle and free of charge.
“Its just tragic that this woman who lost a pet, who wanted to find love, got taken advantage of,” said Baugnon.
There are legitimate sellers out there, but experts say this is a reminder that you have to do your homework before purchasing a pet from an online seller.
Don’t ever meet anyone selling a pet in a parking lot, always go to their home and check-out the pet’s environment. And when responding to an online advertisement, never send money in advance.