When you know better…

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Written by Becky Monroe

“When you know better, you do better – and I really should have known better” 

Not long after my daughter had to put her puppy mill survivor, Wrigley, down she knew she wanted another dog.

Wrigley was really good for Abby’s anxiety. Having him in her life brought her a lot of comfort.

Abby’s roommate needs the dog to be more of a hypoallergenic breed, which greatly limits the possibilities.

I swallow hard saying this, but Abby was interested in a doodle. Ugh. As an animal advocate I just feel like wanting a doodle tends to represent so much of what we fight against. But as a mom, with a daughter still mourning the loss of her dog, well, you tend to accept things differently.

Of course, my go to is always www.petfinder.com or www.adoptapet.com. to find a rescue animal to adopt. However, doodles are like finding a needle in haystack. I searched all of Tennessee.

I searched Florida where I live. Heck, I even searched parts of IL where I used to live. None to be found. 

With Abby’s sad eyes staring at me, I surrendered all my experience and knowledge about animal welfare and turned to Craigslist.

I went at it fully aware of backyard breeders or even puppy millers using it as a place to sell their puppies. My eyes were wide open when it came to “re-homing” designer bred Shipoos and Maltipoos only 6- 8 weeks old, but in need of “new homes.”

These ads were easily scrolled over. I knew better.

There were many ads of people needing to find homes for their adult dogs. All the typical reasons: moving, landlord issues, behavior issues, new babies, etc…

Those I would explore more. Mostly of them were large breed dogs who shed and just weren’t options in Abby’s situation.

Of course, seeing all of those made my heart hurt. No matter how long I am in this world of animal welfare, I am constantly reminded of how so many dogs need homes. And on Craigslist that included all kinds of animals from parakeets to pigs to rats to snakes. Heartbreaking.

As I scrolled the Nashville area, I found a few doodles. Most were puppies and I hesitated because they sure sounded like backyard breeders. I mean who has a 12 week old doodle sitting around these days? 

But then, just as hope was fading, there he was a black doodle – 10 months old. The listing explained that they loved this guy but had to move to Nashville where they no longer were able to keep him.

Abby already named him Levi. She messaged the number given and asked questions like was he still available? Was he neutered? Potty-trained? Could she come see him? 

All the replies came back and Abby gave it more consideration as the week went on. It just happened that the dog lived close to where she would be visiting friends the following weekend.

But, as the week progressed, she decided it just wasn’t the right time to get a new dog. She messaged saying she was sorry, but the timing wasn’t right.

And of course, once she made that decision, she couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect that dog would be for her.

That Saturday as she was visiting her friends in a different town, she decided to reach out and see if by chance the dog was still available.

Yes, he was! In fact, he had had a meet and greet a few days ago, but the people never showed up. So, Abby quickly responded that she would like to adopt him and could come the next day to get him while she was still in the area.

Because of what happened with the previous meet and greet, they asked for a deposit of $120 to hold him. Abby Venmoed the money.

The next day, her, her roommate and the friend they were visiting excitedly got in the car and drove to the meeting place to pick up who would soon be “Levi.” She was so happy.

The owner had Abby messaged that they would be there earlier if that worked and talked about how they were bringing his crate, his toys and even his life jacket that they had used this summer on the boat. 

And then, no one showed.

No one replied to her messages anymore.

The phone number they had was no longer in service.

The Venmo account was deactivated.

The entire thing was a SCAM.

Abby was heartbroken and mad and freaked out. She even said, “Mom, I hope the dog is okay,”

I said, “Honey, I don’t think there ever was a dog.”

I was in shock. All that effort I put in to make sure it wasn’t a puppy miller or backyard breeder – why hadn’t I thought of a scam?

I quickly googled it and sure enough – it was a total thing. It was happening all the time. Abby was actually lucky that it was only $120 and not $1000 or more.

I am ashamed of what happened – that it happened on my watch to my daughter, but I also thought it was worth my shame to share the incident here.

I have to believe that good people do use Craigslist and other ads to find legit good homes for their pets when they are in a situation like that, but as with anything, there are other people just preying on the kindness of others to make a quick buck.

Doodles, Frenchies, and other designer breeds people usually pay thousands for from good breeders (and bad breeders) are often the ideal target on Craigslist – just like Abby was.

I thought I knew better, but I didn’t and I wanted to use our bad experience to educate others on that possibility and prevent more people from being taken advantage because when you know better, you can do better.

On the bright side, Abby has recently been approved by a great rescue and is working on adopting a dog, maybe even a doodle, in need of a good home. Paws crossed. 

According to the Better Business Bureau, these are the ways to ensure you aren’t falling victim to a scam: 

  • Avoid buying a pet without seeing it in person.
  • Never send cash via money order or Western Union to a stranger.
  • Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
  • Do research to get a sense of what a fair price is for the breed you are interested in adopting. Think twice if someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, it could be a fraudulent offer.
  • Report and learn about fraud in your area at BBB Scam Tracker.


What if you’ve been a victim of this fraud?

  • File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker
  • Complain at Petscams.com
  • Complain to the Federal Trade CommissionCall 1-877-FTC-HELP
  • Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security also handles international fraud. Call 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) (from U.S. and Canada)
  • In Canada, call the Canadian Antifraud Centre: Toll Free 1-888-495-8501
  • If you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot MoneyPak, you should contact those companies directly. They can offer information about the transactions, and download their complaints into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database, which is used by police around the country.

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

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