So you’ve decided to get a new furry friend. Pawsome! The RSPCA encourages potential pet owners to find pets from reputable sources – such as the RSPCA and other well-known rescue organisations – that exist to promote animal welfare, rather than for profit. Or look for a registered breeder and ask for references from previous clients. Check out our guide to finding a good breeder: rspcapuppyguide.com.au. Of course, not everyone can get out and about these days, so many people will turn to the internet, our go-to place for browsing before we shop. Our Adopt-a-Pet website (adoptapet.com.au) is a safe and secure place for you to ‘meet’ your future friend online. However, buying a pet is nothing like other online shopping – and, sadly, not everyone advertising animals on-line is as careful about their animals as we are. While the internet is a great way to research and look for your new best friend, you should absolutely avoid buying a pet without meeting them in person first. Otherwise, you could inadvertently be supporting puppy farms or poor breeding practices – not to mention the fact that you could fall victim to a scam, leading to emotional (and financial) heartbreak. And scammers are quick to take advantage. They set up fake websites or ads on online classifieds and social media pretending to sell sought-after breeds and will take advantage of the fact that you can’t travel to meet the pet in person. The seller will make up reasons as to why they can’t meet you in person. They say they’re interstate or moving overseas. There’s always an excuse why they can’t meet you. They ask for up-front payments via money transfer to pay for the pet and deliver it to you. Then, once they have your money, they make new excuses to request more money such as delayed transport and shipping costs. And then they just disappear. Tasmania Police advice that 11 Tasmanians have lost approximately $35,000 to overseas scammers – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many people get caught by unscrupulous sellers but never report it. Keep an eye out for these ‘red flags’ in ads which might indicate something amiss: ‘Six-week-old puppy’ or ‘six-week-old kitten’: no trustworthy seller will rehome a puppy or kitten before 8 weeks of age. At this age, they won’t be fully weaned and will have poor immune systems. ‘Delivery can be arranged’: no reputable breeder should be willing to part with their animals without meeting the new owners first. Also, Australian quarantine requirements mean it is in it is impossible to import a pet from overseas a few. Limited information: be concerned if the advertisement doesn’t tell you whether the animal is microchipped or not; how old it is; whether it is desexed or not; and how it has been bred or sourced. Lack of information can indicate a dodgy seller who is hoping you don’t notice the absence of important facts. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you have any doubts at all, seek advice. If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible. If you come across an ad that looks suspicious, report the ad to the website administrators. Jan Davis, CEO of RSPCA Tasmania, says “The RSPCA is keen to work with online selling platforms to help improve their polices and help reduce the risks surrounding animals sold through these channels. We also continue to call for our Guidelines for The Online Advertising of Pets to be adopted by all websites that promote the sale of pets to protect animals and improve consumer trust. And we encourage all retail outlets – whether online or physical – to develop and enforce sound animal welfare policies, to avoid inadvertently supporting puppy farms, irresponsible breeders or fraudulent advertisers.” Visit www.rspcatas.org.au for more tips on looking after your pets. Media ContactJan Davis, CEO – RSPCA TasmaniaEmail: email@example.comMobile: 0409 004 228 Edit 21 April, 2021: Visit puppyscamawarenessaustralia.com.au for the latest reports of known puppy scammers.