Dog Rescue Scam Foiled By Dr Sky

Updated November 29, 2020

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.

Our rescue puppy
Our rescue puppy Arkie

That’s Arkie above. 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:

Good Morning

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

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.

Lost puppy picture
Fake picture made from our ad

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

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.
google images tutorial
How to find matching images online

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 (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

4 Replies to “Dog Rescue Scam Foiled By Dr Sky”

  1. I am atill hoping my tenterfields Ajax and Stamp will be found (Facebook page. Help find Ajax and Stamp) and returned. But i have got to know about lots of scams and att empts to thieve dogs, cats, birds and reptiles. Will done Dr Sky. You have saved the family years of heartbreak and even possibly PTSD. I shared your story on Ajax and Stamp’s facebook page.

  2. although i agree with you kerryn. a lot of people dont know local lost sites as much as the word gumtree. atleast this way it can be seen in as many places as possible.
    i always as for photos of the dog ageing if its a pup it the owners will have photos and wont be afraid to give the sellers details over. and to question the seller.

    i run a lost pet page along side alot of other ones. the point is to get as much coverage as possible and gumtree reunited do happen often

  3. Thanks for the fantastic advice regarding what to do if you find a lost dog. My only comment is that I would not recommend putting an ad on Gumtree Pets Lost and Found. Gumtree attracts a lot of unscrupulous people and should only be used for advertising material objects not animals. Thanks again:)

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