It’s unlikely there will be enough information to catch these people. We need you to help. We also need you to be aware of what they are doing.
This is Arkie. He was found wandering the streets near Walkerville Vet and brought to us, as are so many other stray pets. Usually all we do is scan their microchip and make a phone call to reunite them with their owners.
It’s a fun part of our job these days and a good advertisement for the power of microchips.
Arkie was different. He had no collar, tag or microchip. That’s OK, we said; someone is sure to be missing him and they’ll start looking as soon as they know he’s missing.
We notified the Animal Welfare League, RSPCA and put this photo on the Lost Dogs of Adelaide Facebook page. For a few days nothing happened. Then this email arrived:
Please find attached photos of my lost little boy
I am so sorry I couldn’t send these through last night,, as promised, I couldn’t access the internet.
How is our little boy this morn, i worried all night when i couldnt send the pics & wanting him home even more now his found.
Please let us no asap wen we can pick him. Also if u can just confirm u got this email & photos.
Sorry again but thankyou for everything…hope to hear from u soon
Here are the photos we were sent. I have to admit I would have been fooled but to the nurses and Dr Sky it looked suspicious.
The first photo is poor quality and though similar, doesn’t look exactly like Arkie. Also, if you look closely you can see the leg of another dog or puppy who has been cropped out.
Then there is the file name: staffyxridgeback5-1.jpg. As Sky said, if you had a new puppy, surely you wouldn’t name their photos in such a generic way, and you’d almost certainly have lots of better and newer photos than this one.
Then Sky looked at the second photo. Have you seen what she saw? It’s actually a cropped, rotated and filtered version of the same photo we put in the Lost Dogs ad. It looks like someone is trying to disguise the fact that they are re-using the original photograph.
We contacted the ‘owners’ and asked for a better photograph. And they promptly disappeared.
We did a bit more digging online, and found the same people advertising that they’ve lost a tan and white puppy whose description doesn’t match Arkie at all.
It all looks like an attempt to steal a puppy. If you include the ad, it looks like these people aren’t intending to do it just once.
When you think about it, you can understand why some people might be motivated to do this. Arkie could easily be sold for several hundred dollars or end up in a dog fighting ring. I think the chance of most shelters and puppy buyers checking closely is very low; we usually operate on trust.
Thanks to Dr Sky and the nurses, we may have uncovered a puppy rescue scam. Who knows if there are families missing puppies because of these people. Who knows what happens to them.
This is a very modern problem caused by the changing way pets are being rescued. No doubt AWL and RSPCA have good protocols in place but these pets are being rehomed privately.
What to do if you find a stray puppy or any stray animal
- Go to the vet and have the animal scanned and examined.
- Place a post with a photo on the Facebook pages Lost Dogs of Adelaide and Lost Pets of Adelaide Place a free ad in Gumtree Pets lost & Found and check the Animal Welfare Lost Pets page.
- Contact the RSPCA, AWL, your local council and nearby vets to report the animal in case the owners contact them first.
When talking to a possible owner, it’s OK to be careful
- Ask for items such as receipts or vaccination certificates.
- Get a recent clear photos of the puppy with them.
- Do a reverse google image search on any suspicious images (see diagram).
- If you see anything unusual, ask to see proof of ID and take a copy.
The matter has been placed in the hands of the police and we’ve notified the rescue organisations to keep a watch out for people like this. Don’t worry: Arkie is still with us. Keep an eye on this blog and we’ll let you know when we find out the whole story.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.