Barking up the wrong tree

Online puppy scams take a big bite out of buyers in Texas, says study

Online puppy scams take a big bite out of buyers in Texas, says study

Ken Hoffman new puppy Citizens for Animal Protection
Don't fall victim to an online puppy scam. Help clear the local shelters instead. Photo by Getty Images

Your kids are begging for a puppy as a holiday gift, so you scour the internet for the perfect pet. That internet search could land you in the doghouse, though. Texas ranks second among the states with the most online puppy-selling scams. review of Better Business Bureau scam data from January 1 to October 31 uncovered 242 puppy scams in Texas, second only to California (345). Given that California and Texas are the biggest states in terms of population, it’s not surprising that these two states top the list.

What is eye-opening, however, is the amount of money — $913.20 per incident — lost in Texas puppy scams reported to the Better Business Bureau. Michigan ranked first in that category ($1,097 per scam). Many of these scams happen on online platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, according to

From January 1 to October 31, Texas victims “collectively lost over $220,000 to puppy scams, with many victims finding themselves conned out of several thousand dollars in certain instances,” says.

In nearly all cases, puppy scammers direct buyers to send a deposit through a wire transfer or through an app like Cash App or Zelle, but then the seller never produces a pooch, according to In these situations, it’s practically impossible to obtain a refund because the sender already has authorized the cash transfer and it can’t be canceled.

“In light of current search trends when it comes to puppies for sale, and the popularity of seeking animal companionship during the pandemic, online puppy scams may continue to be an issue across the U.S.,” warns. “However, individuals and families can protect themselves from scams by making themselves aware of the typical warning signs of a scam, and by adopting through an animal shelter, rescue group, or AKC-certified reputable breeder.”