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Pet Scams with Brandi Hunter

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Pets are one way to get to someone’s heart and their wallet. Purchasing a dog is an investment that scammers can try to manipulate for their own advantage.

Today’s guest is Brandi Hunter. Brandi has been in public relations and communications for over 15 years. The past five years she has been working for the American Kennel Club commonly known as the AKC. The AKC is over 135 years old and the largest pure-bred registry in the United States. The AKC is passionate about all breeds of dogs, their sports, and their safety. Brandi shares many different resources that are available and scams to watch out for.

Show Notes:

  • [0:54] – Brandi shares some background on herself working in communications and the background of the AKC.
  • [1:48] – AKC’s mission is to protect all dogs and make sure they have the happiest and healthiest life possible.
  • [3:11] – The first thing you need to do before purchasing a pet, you need to assess your life and look at your lifestyle and household to make sure you can.
  • [3:45] – Brandi also recommends you take a moment to discover if rescuing is what you should do or if you should go through a breeder.
  • [4:07] – If going through a breeder, you need to make sure you are going through a reputable source. AKC has a marketplace that has a compliance program that Brandi describes.
  • [5:02] – Brandi says to research breeds as well to make sure that their traits and typical behaviors make sense for your lifestyle.
  • [6:10] – Be careful if you are on a website for a breeder. Double check by calling the AKC to see if they are registered. Brandi says that it is easy for someone to copy and paste a logo or make a website a scam.
  • [7:12] – Chris shares his story in searching for a Mini Schnauzer.
  • [8:01] – Brandi explains how some breeds are not good for first time dog owners.
  • [9:02] – Chris and his wife found a breeder near a family member’s home. His family member trains service dogs and decided to have her go look at the dog and breeder, the breeder completely stopped communicating.
  • [10:35] – Responsible breeders want to meet you and make sure the dog is going to a good home.
  • [11:53] – In every case Brandi has ever seen with responsible breeders, the breeder will say to bring the dog back if it is not the right fit. This reduces surrender.
  • [12:57] – When Chris and his wife found the right breeder, he described the difference in experience. She was very communicative and cared about the dog.
  • [14:01] – Nobody that is intentionally breeding wants their dogs to end up in shelters. That’s not why you put the work in. Breeding is a lot of work.
  • [15:34] – A puppy mill is not a term the AKC uses because they do not encourage the practice. But it is when someone breeds irresponsibility in mass after receiving money.
  • [16:58] – Puppy mills and backyard breeders do not do health checks because they are only concerned about earning money.
  • [18:02] – Breeding this irresponsibly is unscrupulous and completely unhealthy for the parents and the puppies. When this happens you can usually tell based on looks and behavior.
  • [19:08] – A red flag will also be exorbitant prices and the breeder telling you that the puppy is exotic.
  • [20:02] – Another sign to watch out for is that the breeder doesn’t ask you any questions to make sure the dog is going to a good home. They only want to know that you can pay for it.
  • [20:56] – When paying for a dog, Brandi says do not use Western Union or other methods of wiring money that you cannot trace. Use your credit card because you can report fraud.
  • [21:33] – Another red flag is that a scammer will ask for money right away. That is the first thing they will talk about.
  • [22:19] – Brandi lists some other red flags including refusal to provide papers and bad grammar on websites.
  • [22:47] – When contacting a phone number on a website, always call. Numbers that you can’t call but you can receive texts from is another red flag.
  • [22:59] – Brandi recommends to reverse look-up a photo to see if it is a stock photo used elsewhere or to copy and paste testimonials from their website into Google.
  • [23:40] – There will be no financial surprises with a reputable breeder. Brandi lists some ways scammers and irresponsible breeders will spring additional fees.
  • [24:34] – Responsible breeders will work with a contract. They will have a copy and you will have one.
  • [25:56] – Pricing a dog is at the discretion of the breeder, not the AKC. It is random and arbitrary so there will be no hidden costs that pop up.
  • [26:50] – Brandi describes a common lost dog scam. It tugs on the emotion of the pet owner.
  • [28:10] – You should always have your dog microchipped or have tags on your dog in the event they get lost. If someone calls and claims to have your dog, they need to send you a picture of the tags.
  • [29:47] – Pay attention to what they’re saying and to what they’re not saying. This is good advice for someone who claimed to find your dog or a breeder you are in contact with to purchase.
  • [31:09] – A legitimate person is only concerned with reuniting you with your dog. They should get the reward money only when the dog is returned, not before.
  • [32:33] – “Do your research. We know that puppies are an impulsive buying decision. The minute that warm little nose touches your cheek, it’s over for any straightforward thought you’re thinking. But the desire for the pet should never outweigh your logic.” – Brandi Hunter
  • [33:41] – If a pet store or a shelter is doing it right, they are protecting the animal. Take the right path for you.
  • [34:23] – There is a wealth of information on AKC’s website, including quizzes, articles, and videos to help plan.

Thanks for joining us on Easy Prey. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and leave a nice review. 


Thank you. Can you give me a little bit of background on how you ended up at the AKC and what the AKC is?

Well, I had a PR career long before I got to the AKC, but it winded to music, television, tech, and comedy. A wonderful opportunity to join an organization that I’m very passionate about. The AKC is a 135 going on 136 years old. It is one of the oldest animal welfare organizations in the world, and the largest purebred registry in the country. Also, we have a place in our hearts for all dogs.

We are also the governing body of the dog sport. We recognize approximately 25 or 26 sports, many of which are rescue dogs or your non-purebred dog can absolutely compete in. We have champions all across the board. We really are passionate about all things dogs. We’re an excellent resource for dog lovers, whether it be through, whether it be through AKC Marketplace, or whether it be through our OTT channel AKCTV.

We are literally dog lovers from all across the country who get to follow our passion. Our mission is to protect all dogs. We do promote the breeding of purebred dogs, of course, but our mission is to protect all dogs and make sure that they have the happiest, healthiest, and best life possible.

“I know, my flow is fabulous.”

That is awesome when your career can line up with your passions and then everything is better when you get a dog or a pet.

Absolutely. It’s the best feeling in the world, honestly.

The process of getting a pet can be that impulsive. It’s a holiday, the kids are done with school, the kids say, “Mommy, daddy, I want a pet” 45 times in three minutes.

And you cracked.

You cracked, and you want to get a pet. We’ll talk about dogs because that’s your specialty.


You see dogs for sale in the newspaper, flyers on your neighborhood, websites. At least in my area, you used to be able to get dogs at pet stores. You can’t anymore. They don’t allow them. I think there are probably some good reasons—we can talk about some of those. Can you talk about like, “OK, we want to get a pet, where do we know where to go? How do we separate the backyard breeders, the puppy mills, the scams, the legitimate breeders from one another?”

The first thing you want to do before you get any kind of pet is you want to assess your lifestyle and make sure that it’s in the best interest for you to get a pet. If you work a lot or maybe you have a child that’s not necessarily the best with animals or needs to be a little bit more mature, you want to assess those things because you’re bringing a living, breathing thing into your household. That is going to change how your household and life function a bit. You want to first assess that.

Then, once you do it, you need to assess what’s in your heart? What’s in your passion? If a purebred dog, you grew up with golden retrievers, rottweilers, schnauzers, or beagles, and you know what, that’s what you want to bring into your household. That’s wonderful. Now you’ve chosen the type of dog that you want. If you choose to go to a rescue, we also advocate for responsible rescues. Making sure that they’re doing everything possible to make sure this dog is being rehabbed in a way that can be rehomed and is best for your family.

If you’re going to choose a breeder, the first thing you want to do is you want to go to a reputable source. We have AKC Marketplace, but there are also other ones like PuppySpot, and things like that that we have done some work with in the past. You want to make sure that they actually have a compliance program. AKC is the only private registry in the country with a compliance program, which means we go out and we inspect breeders.

When you’re looking for a breeder you want to dig into their website. You want to look at what they’re breeding, how they’re breeding, what their emphasis is on. Responsible breeders’ emphasis is on health—health testing, breeding for form, breeding for function. What that means is how the dog is supposed to look and how the dog is supposed to act. You don’t want a golden retriever that acts like a Staffordshire bull terrier. You want them to have the characteristics that make you fall in love with the breed and that are best for their breed.

To that point, you also want to research your breed before you go to any kind of breeder. You want to know what that dog is and/or does. Meaning, certain dogs have very strong prey instincts, certain dogs have a howl to them. A beagle has a very distinct howl that might be a lot for an apartment complex, but might not be—it might be better for a house. You want to make sure that you know the requirements for exercising the dog and mentally stimulating the dog. When you’re looking for a breeder, you want to look at, one, who they’re affiliated with, and what they’re telling you about the dogs.

It’s more than just being cute. A lot of responsible breeders will tell you where the parents come from, what lines they came from. If their dad and their mom were AKC Champions, or how many litters their parents have had. They’ll give you that information. It’s more than just the dog being cute and what the price is. A lot of them will link back to their parent clubs on their website, tell you that they are members of their parent club. That’s not something you can necessarily always trust, but if they’re saying that they’re AKC registerable, you can always call us and we’re happy to help you figure out if this breeder is actually registering with the AKC.

Smile for the photo…

To that point, we tell everybody to be careful when you’re on websites—even digging in—because some people can copy and paste a logo and it may look authentic to you, but there are definitely ways to check.

I think there’s a website called They specifically go out and look for kind of the tell-tale signs of it’s all stock artwork. All these 16 dog websites are owned by the same character.

Or the dog is sitting next to a Louis Vuitton wallet. I guarantee you, no responsible breeder is concerned if you can see a Louis Vuitton wallet in the picture. Their concern is that they are breeding the healthiest dogs possible, that they’re telling you the things you need to know about the dog, and that you’re the right owner for the dog. Being the right owner for the dog is way more than having the accessible cash in order to buy the dog.

When my wife and I were looking to get a dog, we decided on a schnauzer because my wife has some fairly significant health issues. I should preface a mini-schnauzer because we wanted a smaller dog—we lived in a condo. Our first round was contacting local rescues and we got turned down by the first one because we’ve never had a schnauzer before. They basically said, “If you haven’t had a schnauzer, we won’t let you take care of a schnauzer.” We were kind of confused by that. I think we now know later on why that is probably the case.

It’s because dogs have certain instincts, and some dogs are easier for first-time dog owners. For example, a black Russian terrier is an absolutely beautiful dog, but it’s not necessarily the dog a first-time dog owner should have. A first-time dog owner should probably lean towards more of—we call them like, we always release our popular breeds every year—your goldens, your Frenchies, your corgis, things of that nature. Because once you get the handle on dog ownership—because it never looks the same way twice, but there are some consistencies—you can know how to maneuver and negotiate.

Also, for certain breeds, there’s a commitment to training that really helps with the happiness of the dog and the happiness of the owners. They want to be sure. Especially when you go into a rescue situation, you should be really, actually, grateful that they turned you down.


Because you don’t want to walk into something blindly. For them to say, “No, no, no, you might want to wait on that.” Especially, if they’re in a rescue situation, that was probably in the best interest of you, your sanity, and the dog.

It probably turned out to be a good thing. We ultimately went and started looking for a breeder. We ran across, we found one. This place looks good—my wife was emailing back and forth with them—and we found out that they were probably a couple of miles from one of my relatives. That’s great. My aunt had raised seeing-eye dogs, service dogs.

That’s wonderful.

She raised them to the puppy stage, did the beginning training, and then they passed their hip dysplasia tests, and stuff like that. They go off to more training, otherwise, she gets to keep them.

Not necessarily a bad thing when they fail, right?

No. It was happy and not happy when they failed. Happy that they get to keep the dog that they’ve grown to love; not happy that they weren’t able to become a service dog.

Be of service to somebody else. Service dogs really do enhance our world in miraculous ways.

We thought, well, she would be the perfect person to go meet the breeder and see if it’s appropriate—a good breeder, they’re doing a good job. As soon as we mentioned, “Hey, we’d like to have someone come over and meet you.” The person went silent. They never responded to any more emails. We’re like, “OK, that’s a good sign we ask that question.”

Is that treat for ME?

Yes, because responsible breeders want to meet you. For a lot of people, the misconception is that breeding dogs are some lucrative business that everybody’s in for the money and this is what they’re doing. That’s not the case. Especially with breeders that are registering with the AKC, the vast majority—I will always say there are some outliers—but the vast majority of them are 100% concerned with the preservation of the breed.

They’re going to breed dogs from good lines, and if they happen to have a bad line, they’re going to know not to breed that dog. They’re not going to keep going, they’re going to want to know where these dogs are going. They spend 10 weeks with these puppies before you ever get to them. They want to know that these dogs that they put the time, the care, the energy into, that they’re sitting at the whelping box with for 10 weeks on their hands and knees trying to socialize, play with them, and all of that great stuff, because they are emotionally tied to them, they always will be.

They come from their dogs, they want to make sure that they’re going to a home where the owner is going to give them the best possible situation. They want to make sure that you’re going to have enough time, that you have enough space if it’s a bigger breed, that you have a good and knowledgeable concept of how much the dog needs to be exercised, or does it need to be exercised. They don’t want you to be, “I’m going on a 46 tour of national parks and I want to take this dog everywhere to hike with me.” You’re looking at a dog and they’re like, “That’s not a dog breed that’s going to want to do these things.”

They want to make sure that you are a fit for the dog as much as the dog is fit for you because what that does is reduce the rate of surrender. Responsible breeders, in every case I’ve seen, will tell you, “If the dog is not a fit, call me, bring the dog back to me. Don’t take it to the shelter. You can bring it back to me if it’s not a fit for your lifestyle.” Which is a wonderful thing, because it’s almost heartbreaking if that happens. But they’re willing to take the dog back, and the reason why they’re willing to do that is because they loved that dog—they care about that.

Breeders can be a valuable resource for the entire life of your dog. I have heard stories from people who got a dog four years ago from a breeder and the dog was doing this weird thing and the vet couldn’t figure out what it was or thought it was something else. They called the breeder, and the breeder was like, “No, it’s that particular thing. My dogs do it all the time, this is what we do when it happens.” That’s a resource that, honestly, money can’t buy because dogs are the most unique animal, it seems like, to own.

They have their own personalities, their own quirks, their own preferences, all of these things. Having somebody that knows the breed and knows some of the behaviors of the breed that you’re getting can really be helpful.

I think our breeder did a great job with that. She asked us a ton of questions. Any time that you want to FaceTime with the dog, we’ll FaceTime with you. She was sending weekly updates and videos, had a Facebook page with all of her previous pet parents. You can see those interactions between them, which is perfect.

Which is a beautiful experience. Honestly, when you have a responsible breeder that is really doing this because they love the breed, they want to see these dogs go to good homes, they want the continuation of the breed to have the lines, and things like that. It’s really a beautiful experience because they want you to get to know the dog as well, but they also know the timeframe.

“Come on Bruce, you’re ruining the picture! Where do you think you’re going?”

If they’re like, “Well, the puppies aren’t ready to go for another seven weeks, but they want to keep you updated. They want you to be engaged, they want you to be ready with open arms when that dog is ready to go home with you, and they feel confident in that. That’s the main thing, because nobody that’s intentionally breeding wants their dogs to end up in shelters. That’s not why you put the work in, and breeding is a lot of work.

I shadowed a breeder once and I was like, “OK, wow, that was enough.” For me, that was just an experience. I was like, “OK, you guys work really, really hard to do this. It has to be a passion because when you’re doing it right, it takes a lot of work.”

All the vet visits, and all the training that you have to do, the potty training.

The socializing.


Yes, all of that. They do it, it’s the physical commitment of the training, socialization, and all that is from the moment they come out, they start to be with their littermates in a more flexible situation because it’s a little cramped in there. The commitment just in knowing when it’s time to breed your dog, making sure the vet visits, doing the x-rays, making sure your dog is comfortable, whelping a litter, that’s a lot of time. It’s a lot of time. To put that commitment in, you want to make sure these dogs are having a wonderful experience and going to owners that are going to love and spoil them as much as possible.

Yep. I think we’ve done a really good job of talking about what a good breeder looks like. We hear the term puppy mill. I think maybe they’re less frequent now, I don’t know. Can you give us an idea of what a puppy mill is, what’s the reputation, the risks?

Well, I think that a lot of people confuse commercial-scale breeding with puppy milling. That’s not necessarily going hand-in-hand. A puppy mill is not a term we actually use at the AKC because it’s one of the things that, one, we don’t encourage in the least bit. It’s a desire for somebody to make money before the care of the dogs, and they generally do so by irresponsibly breeding en masse. By irresponsible breeding, we mean you don’t just breed by necessarily just putting two dogs together. There is time, considerations, study of lines, and things like that that are considerations that good breeders use.

Puppy mills or backyard breeding, which I think people also confuse with hobby breeders because there are breeders that will breed in their home, and they only do a very small number of litters per year. That’s not a backyard breeder. They don’t breed with health, form, function, temperaments, any of those considerations. They’re breeding—”French bulldogs are hot right now, I’m breeding French bulldogs.” “Beagles are hot right now, I’m breeding Beagles.” It’s not anything that is calculated, it’s not anything that’s devotion, and they’ll churn those puppies out.

The likelihood of you getting a dog that has a health issue is very high. They don’t do health checks—that’s not what they do. Their goal is to make money and to churn them out. A lot of people confuse that with commercial breeding, which is a totally different animal. It also is very expensive to do and is not really solely based on the dogs coming out.

When you deal with a puppy mill, so to speak, there’s not a concern for socialization and if they’re with their littermates. And if, God forbid, they had the puppies too long and then somebody goes into heat, the tie-on, who, what, and where. What we have seen with some is like, “I do have mixed breed rescues. I’m in the market for a purebred. My fiancé wants a westie, so we’re getting a westie.”

If two dogs were to start mating, they’re not going to be concerned about that if it’s a mixed breed that’s happening right now. If it was a French thing, which is something I’ve seen recently. If they saw a French bulldog and a bulldog going at it, they are not going to stop it. They’re going to say, “Whatever that litter is, we’ll just sell it as that.” It’s a very unscrupulous way to breed. It does not prioritize the health of the dogs. It doesn’t prioritize the well-being of the parents nor the puppies.

When you do that, you can generally tell. You can see the signs, you can see the outliers, you can see the distortion of characteristics—physical and personality-wise—and it’s really not safe for anybody involved. It’s very hard to breed dogs, it’s very hard to inspect, to care for, and to take care of these dogs in that way.

You can see the difference in the lack of care between a responsible breeder and a backyard breeder. I’m sorry, a puppy mill, not a backyard breeder. Almost immediately you can see the differences.

From a consumer perspective, are they going to see things like the prices are…

Exorbitantly ridiculous.

Either really high or really low outlier pricing?

Yes. It’ll be something that’s crazy, or they’ll tell you is exotic. For example, breeding a dog in a color blue, a light gray, or something that they’re going to tell you is exotic. Especially with backyard breeders, you see a lot of that in some of the bully breeds where it’s very distorted. They’ll tell you it’s a bulldog but it looks like it’s about to go to a prizefight, not a show ring. Sometimes they’ll do the popular breeds, but you can tell the difference. You can tell the way that the dogs grow, you can tell the size difference, you tell the temperament difference.

They’re not going to question you, that’s not going to happen. They’re not going to have any concern about who you are and if you can take care of this dog. Their concern is, can you pay for it. I’ve seen $10,000 for dogs. I’ve talked to reputable breeders and like, “$10,000? OK, that’s nice in theory, but who’s paying for that?” There are people that do because they don’t know the difference, but responsible breeders really are going to walk you through it.

Backyard breeders are going to be the people that go silent when you send them an email saying you want to come to visit, can you be in person, or can you video chat with the dog because they don’t necessarily want you to see the conditions. All of those things are huge red flags.

Got you. When it comes to the scammers, we talked about stock photos on websites, just things that just seemed odd. Are there any other, in the financial transactions, that would be a red flag?

We tell people all the time, do not use Western Union, do not use Zelle, do not use cash apps, do not use anything that you cannot trace. We tell people to use their credit card because you can report fraud on your credit card as opposed to wiring somebody $5,000 from your bank account. You’re not going to get that money back,. That’s why Zelle asks you, “Are you sure you want to send it?” On occasion, they can stop the transaction, but most of the time those people are gone in the end. They’re out of here. We really advocate for people not to do those things.

One of the things that is a huge sign is they’re going to ask for money right away. The first thing they’re going to be talking about is price. They’re not going to be talking about, “Well, what’s your lifestyle like? Have you ever owned an XYZ before?” No, the first thing they want to talk about is money. They want to put down a deposit right away. They don’t want to video chat with you. They don’t want to do anything like getting on the phone with you, they want to text. In some cases, they won’t even email, they only want to text because they are trying to hook you in and stay connected to you to get that money out of you.

If you look at a website, and again, you see a dog laying on a Louis Vuitton wallet, no. That dog probably does not exist and that photo has come from somewhere. If you see websites with very bad grammar, I mean, it’s very basically bad. You’re just like, “What in the world?” You asked for the litter number and they don’t want to tell you the litter number, or if you ask for the papers and they say, “Oh, yeah, well, we’ll send you the dog and we’ll send you the papers later.” “Uh-uh, you can send me the papers now because you will have registered the litter and you will have the papers, therefore, you should give me those.”

A lot of times, the phone number that they have on there, you can’t call, but miraculously it’ll text you. You have to watch out for that as well. We tell people, reverse Google search—right-click on the photo, reverse Google search the picture. If it comes up in several places. You can also—which I found plenty of scammers doing this—some of the testimonials. Put the text in Google, I’ve seen it come up on six different websites and been like so that one sells rottweilers, this one sells poodles, that one over there is selling schnauzers, that one is selling French bulldogs, and they all had the same review, that can’t quite be right. When in doubt if it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t proceed.

I assume a reputable breeder will be able to tell you all the costs upfront. The dog is going to be this much. If we have to ship it, it’s going to be this much. This is how we’re going to ship it. There’s going to be no financial surprises with someone who’s reputable, I assume, or should be none?

They know how badly you want a dog and ask for more money.

Right, absolutely. It’s not some weird thing that happens. They’ll tell you, “You can come and pick up the dog in Indiana.” They’re not going to tell you, “Hey, you can ship the dog but we’re going to need money for an air-conditioned controlled crate in order to ship the dog” and things like that, and it’s not going to pop up the day of. What they’ll do is, if it’s something that’s needed, they’re going to let you know as soon as they know. They’re not going to wait until you’re expecting the dog or you’re driving to the airport because the dog is supposed to land at 3:30 PM, at 3:29 PM you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, we didn’t put the dog on the plane, we need another $900.” That’s not how they work.

Responsible breeders generally work with a contract. A contract that will tell you if the registration is limited, which means you cannot breed this dog because the litter won’t be registered with the AKC, if there’s a commitment to spay or neuter because they don’t want that line particularly bred, or they don’t want somebody to breed irresponsibly with that line. They’ll do those things, and even a commitment to return the dog if the dog doesn’t fit your lifestyle or whatnot.

Breeders really like a contract that you have a copy of and that they have a copy of that binds you guys together. It’s not just a text conversation. It’s, “No, let me send you this documentation, make sure you’re fine with it, make sure we’re fine with it.” FaceTime with the dog because we are in an era of COVID, unfortunately, or Zoom with the dog in order for everybody to see each other and know that you’re who you say you are. I’m who I say I am, the dog that you want exists. All of those things happen with responsible breeders.

What doesn’t happen is text conversations of, “Yeah, so if you want to send $5,000, I have two puppies left—a boy and a girl—which one are you interested in?”

And I could send them tomorrow.

They can always send them tomorrow. The scam that I love is, “Oh, they’ll be sent with a nanny” that never seems to get on a plane. OK, sure. The way the breeders are pricing their dogs and pricing your dog is at the discretion of the breeder, not the AKC. I don’t know why people think we’re involved in that, but we’re not. It’s based on the cost, the value of the line that they’re coming from, and the effort that the breeder has put into the dog. It’s not something very random and arbitrary at all.

They’re not going to pop up and say, “Hey, I need a crate that costs $1,000 before the dog gets on the plane.” They know that when they’re talking to you if that’s the case. They’ve done this before, they didn’t just start breeding yesterday—they’ve done this before.

Got you. Let’s transition to some of the scams that happen, maybe once you already have a pet. I’ve heard about kind of Craigslist scams and happen when someone loses their dog. They post on Craigslist, “Hey, I’ve lost my dog.” They post flyers around the neighborhood, and then the scam ensues. Can you tell us about that scam?

What people generally do is they scour. We’ll just use a labrador retriever. You have a black lab, you lost your lab. They find a picture of that. All black labs don’t necessarily look alike, but they do have very similar characteristics, especially if you’re only getting from the chest up. You’ve put your number out there because you want somebody to return your dog, or your email address. They say “Hey, I found your dog. I could bring it to you. I need XYZ to get there.”

OK, you send them the money, they go dead. “What just happened? You have my dog.” It’s a very old scam, and it tugs on the emotion of people who lost their dogs. You’ll do anything to get that dog back. That dog is a member of your family. I would do anything to get my dog back. I’m going to send the money because I want my dog home. I want them saved, I want them next to me. I want to know that they’re cared for. They play on that. You depart with what you deem as a nominal cost to get a minimal cost to get your dog back, they have your money, they’re onto the next person, and they’re trying to scam somebody else.

We tell people to be very careful with that. There are ways that if somebody says, “Oh, I found your dog.” Well, first of all, you should always have your dog microchipped and should have your dog tagged. They should be able to show you a picture of the dog tag. I don’t need a headshot of my dog. I know what my dog looks like. “Do you have a picture of the dog tag?” If they can’t show you that or any distinctive characteristics that might be on your dog, then they probably don’t have your dog.

Most people, honestly, if they find a lost dog, their priority is getting the dog back to their owner, not how much they can make off the owner. That’s why we do tell people a reward is a great incentive, but it also can be a hindrance because scammers out there are looking for you to pay that money.

Yeah. I heard a story of someone I knew. They had lost their dog and they had posted the flyers and posted online. They got a call—I think it was a call, email, text, or whatever, kind of irrelevant—that, “Hey, I found your dog. Here’s a blurry photo of a dog that looks kind of like your dog. But I was just passing through your town, and I’m now out of state. I didn’t know where the local pound was, and I didn’t want to drop it off at a kill shelter. I just brought it home with me, happy to get it to you, but I’ve got this work commitment and I can ship them to you. Just pay me X dollars.”

How many people do you know that have a work commitment are going to stop, pick up a stray dog, drive to wherever they’re going, and then send you an email out of nowhere? Because everybody who found the lost dog searches Craigslist, let me tell you. That’s not even the way anymore, not in 2021 anyway.

We tell people all the time: pay attention to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying. You can drop a dog off at a police station if you really need to, a firehouse if you need to, or a vet. “Hey, I found this dog,” and there’s no way anybody could tell you that they did not pass a vet in between leaving your town and getting home. “Hey, I found this dog. I don’t know if it has a microchip, can you guys help me find the owner?” Every animal lover is going to prioritize the animal. If they’re telling you, “Oh, I need $1500 to come back because XYZ happened, or I’ll ship them back to you.” None of that is legitimate 99.9% of the time.

The priority for anybody that has a heart for animals as you or I do is if we see something, we see a lost dog, cats can be a little tricky because they are survival-of-the-fittest animals and they will do outside like nobody’s business. I grew up with cats. I love them, but I’m like, “Y’all are some strong animals because they can do outside.” You might think you’re finding a stray cat. That cat’s like, “I’ve been outside my whole life. What are you doing?”

If you see a dog that’s hurt, injured, on the side of the road, scared, your first instinct is, “Oh, sweetheart, what’s wrong? Where’s your owner? OK, I can’t find the owner, how do I go about finding the owner?” Not how do I go about making money off of finding the owner. Nobody’s actually doing that. You have to be very mindful of that. If they say, “I heard there was a reward for the dog.” “Yeah, if you can return my dog in person to me, absolutely. I’m not going to wire money.” If they go silent after you say the words, “I’m not going to wire money,” they do not have your dog.

Any legitimate person is going to want to reunite you and your pet.

Absolutely, because there’s nothing more heartwarming than that. We know you’re heartbroken over your dogs—we would be on the floor over ours. There are lost dogs in my neighborhood all the time, and I have found a couple. People are like, “Oh, I can give you.” I’m like, “No, no, no, I want you to have your dog. I’m good. This wasn’t a rescue mission, really, but I’m not going to leave them outside.”

Scammers always will show you exactly who they are every time, but they play on the emotion of wanting your puppy or a dog or having lost a dog in order to manipulate you out of your wallet, which is very sinister.

It’s ruthless. Are there any other more common scams that I’ve missed?

Those are actually the main ones. We tell people: do your research. We know that puppies are impulsive buying decisions. The minute that warm little nose touches your cheek, it’s over for any amount of straightforward thought you’re thinking or any amount of due diligence. We tell people, the desire for the pet should never outweigh your logic. Just do a little bit more digging, because this is a lifetime commitment.

One, you work hard for your money. You should be able to keep it and spend it as you see fit, and not be scammed out of it. But also, do your research to make sure that this dog exists, before you get too emotionally tied in because it is a commitment. Once you fall in love, it is very easy to lose your senses. If you fall in love with a human then we’re falling in love with animals. You know it’s very easy to lose your senses.

We want people to just be logical about it because our goal is to always emphasize the human-canine bond. There’s nothing like it in the world. It’s one of the most beautiful things to experience. You want to make sure that you’re not getting your heart broken a million times on the way up. There are several reputable places that you can buy animals. If there is a pet store in your area that is working with responsible breeders, and you can ask them. You can say, “Well, where do you get your dogs from?” If a pet store doesn’t want to tell you, you can also leave. Transparency is a huge factor.

Pet stores aren’t necessarily the worst place to get an animal. If a pet store is doing it right, they’re protecting the animals just like they’re protecting you. Whenever you decide, if you decide to go to a rescue or whatnot, just do your research so that you can make sure that whatever path you take, (a) is financially safe, (b) is emotionally safe, and—which I think C is probably A, but I’m going to go with C, somebody may bite my head off—(c) that is the best possible situation for you and the canine that you are choosing to bring in to your life.

That’s awesome. Just for the readers and resources, if they’re trying to figure out what breed is right for them, AKC has some resources on that?

We do. We have tons of articles. We have some that if you are leaning towards a doodle, there are actually some purebreds that really are actually comparable and are great for people who have allergies and things like that. We have a find your match quiz. We have things that you should think about before you get a dog, considerations you might have even had. There’s a wealth of information on and on AKCTV.

You can learn about breeds, any breed you think you might want to own. You might change your mind afterward, you might be more in love afterward. I learned that a high-energy breed is not really my thing. I love a basenji, but I work a lot, my fiance works a lot, so the dog wouldn’t be exercised in the best way. As much as I loved one, I had to change my mind. We always advocate for that.

If you do get a rescue, make sure you’re asking the right questions. We actually have a list on our website of 10 things to ask the shelter that will be also helpful for you and your dog ownership journey.

That’s awesome. You talked about the AKC Marketplace. What is that? Is that a list of AKC-approved breeders?

We don’t approve breeders, we register breeders. We tell people all the time: any breeder that registers with the AKC is subject to our Care and Conditions policy, which means they’re also consenting to be inspected. Unfortunately, due to COVID, of course, it is a little bit different, but we have found a way to virtually do inspections, which is wonderful. But we do over 3,000 inspections a year. They are hard at work on making sure that breeders are treating dogs well.

Again, there are always some outliers, but that is not what we can control. We can control what we can. AKC Marketplace is breeders that have AKC-registered litters. They will let you know if a litter is available, if there are puppies available, or when they’re having their next one. You can reach out to them and directly communicate with them. But also, you know that these breeders are registering with the AKC. If you have a question or, for some reason, want another level of legitimacy, you can actually call and ask about the breeders on our site. We have a wonderful customer service team.

Do you guys have something that’s the BBB for breeders? In the sense of like, for your registered breeders, if there are so many complaints, do you guys track things like that?

We absolutely track things like that. We track any instance of cruelty, any instance of possible cruelty, any reports of cruelty, anything that doesn’t look right on an inspection. We actually have a disciplinary process that we will take breeders that are not in compliance through, absolutely. We do that because we want breeders to be giving their best foot forward. We want to know that they are caring for their dogs appropriately, and we want to know that these dogs are going to be healthy where they’re going.

Now, you cannot always control that a dog will be healthy. Unfortunately, dog bodies are not completely figured out yet, and some things may happen down the line. Again, when you have a responsible breeder, if it’s something that they’ve seen before, they can guide you through, tell you if something is extremely alarming because veterinarians are awesome. I love my chief veterinary officer. I think that veterinarians have to do the Lord’s work because some of the stuff they do I’m like, “I cannot do that,” but they see a lot of dogs.

Breeders, generally, have experience with the breed that they’ve bred and it is a long-standing relationship, so they can give some insights that possibly your vet may not be able to give you. We always are heavy on compliance, heavy on paying attention to it, heavy on even watching news reports. If we see something, we’re like, that might wait, that sounds like a breeder. Let’s check our system. We’re always on top of that.

It’s a lot of work, but we have an awesome compliance department that has agents around the country. We literally have compliance officers around the country that spend tons of time on the road trying to make sure that dogs are being properly cared for.

That’s awesome that there’s an entity out there watching out for the best interest of puppies.

Yes, and the USDA does have their compliance system as well, but ours are specifically for breeders that register with the AKC. That being said, I will always offer this disclaimer: If they do not register with the AKC, we cannot verify their compliance in anything. If they are saying they are AKC-registered you can always check with us. If you are on a puppy website and they have different registrations, you have to call that registry. But if they are registering with the AKC, we can validate that and keep track of their compliance.

Awesome. Brandi, thank you so much for coming on the Easy Prey Podcast today.

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