CEDAR PARK, TX (KXAN) – Annie Hardy immediately fell in love with the Russian blue kitten with emerald green eyes and shimmering silver gray.
“She stank adorable,” Hardy said with a smile. “Just the cutest little thing.”
The mother-of-three had researched for weeks and learned that the breed was playful and suited her family well, especially in the midst of the pandemic.
“I’m allergic to cats, my daughter is allergic to dogs,” Hardy explained. “We started to study hypoallergenic animals. “
Hardy said she searched online for a reputable breeder and found one in North Texas with documents showing her kittens were purebred.
It also verified that the breeder was listed by one of the certification bodies.
Hardy then took to the cattery’s Facebook page, looked at reviews, and even connected with people who had previously gotten a kitten from the breeder.
“I went to visit his page. I went to visit their pages to see if they were believable and real people. I went to the people who were friends to see if they were real people, thinking they might be scammers and just creating fake accounts. They were real people.
At this point, Hardy felt comfortable and was ready to get more information.
“I went online and posted on one of the pages where they said they had a litter of kittens and I said, ‘I would like to talk about having a kitten‘and at that moment I got a message from someone and they said to me: “I will send you an MP”,“Hardy explained.” In my mind, I thought okay, that was the owner… she was taking it off the page – taking it away in a private message. “
The woman texted Hardy, “Russian blue is available and ready to go.” She then shared some photos of the eight week old kitten and said, “You could probably miss her unless we make a reservation.”
Hardy responded and ended up paying him $ 450. She said she even told the woman about a pickup location, but then said she was a ghost.
“…[She] went and deleted all of his comments, all blocked me from his Facebook page and seeing anything else.
Hardy said the company was legitimate, but the woman who contacted her was not working there. Hardy immediately contacted the breeder who also didn’t realize his customers were drawn.
Hardy filed a police report and complaint with the Better Business Bureau. She also reported what happened to her bank. The owner of the cattery immediately notified the others on her Facebook page.
“It can be very easy to hijack these conversations,” said Erin Dufner, Marketing Director at BBB. “These are really people who are trying to pull you out of what might be a legitimate business conversation and get you in.”
The BBB explained that nearly three times as many people deposit BBB scam tracker reports detailing that they were scammed into trying to buy a pet.
“Because it’s emotional, it can be very easy to get caught up in the faces of these little puppies. Some of these websites are completely bogus where they have pictures of fake dogs, they provide fake references, ”Dufner explained.
The BBB said red flags to look out for include not buying a pet without seeing it in person (safe) and avoiding wire transfer or using a Cash app – use one instead. credit card. The organization also encouraged consumers to consider visiting a local shelter.
Lining in case of pandemic
“A common misconception is that shelters and animal shelters do not have particular breeds or pets with particular brands that may be more desirable than others. And we do, ”explained Katera Berent, PR and Events Manager, Austin Pets Alive!
Austin animals alive! saw an increase in adoptions and foster families during the pandemic, but Berent explained that this slowed down a bit during the fall. She said about 1,500 animals need a permanent home every day.
Shelter and Rescue saw an increase of 6.2% for dog adoptions and 31.1% for cat adoptions compared to last year. Berent said first-time outbreaks also increased 116% for dogs and 146.3% for cats.
“We are saving the animals that need us the most,” Berent said. “These are pets that have no other chance. They are pets that can be injured or sick. They may have behavioral issues or just need a bit of TLC to come out of their shell.
The adoption and placement process has gone virtual, but team members can schedule a date and even set up FaceTime dates. There is also a team of cat and dog matchmakers who can help you find the right pet.
Berent said he recently rolled out an app where people can enter specific information about a pet and then receive an alert if there is a match and the animal is available.
Austin Humanitarian Society also experienced a steady stream of adoptions during COVID-19. Since March, 983 cats and 607 dogs have been adopted.
“Initially we saw an increase in adoptions and our animals were leaving almost as soon as we brought them in. Things have leveled off a bit now, but we still have a steady stream of interested adopters,” said Katie Kennedy, director of communications. with Austin Humane Society.
All adoptions also take place virtually where a team can provide more details and even schedule a video call.
“If you decide to go ahead with the adoption, we’ll schedule a curbside pickup,” Kennedy said. “All of our adult animals leave the shelter on a week-long foster care program, which means you will have seven days to make sure it is well adapted. “
The Hardy family never got their kitten or money back, but they continued their research. After weeks of research, they decided on a hypoallergenic puppy.
“Our doggie’s name is Chip. He’s a Morkie, he’s a Maltese Yorkie mix, ”Hardy said with a smile. “He’s absolutely adorable.”
This time, they didn’t exchange any money until they got the puppy – and had no issues.
Hardy said that looking back she should have waited for the communication from the official Breeders Facebook page. She explained that she should have walked away when she couldn’t get more details from the alleged breeder.
The Humane Society of the United States says responsible breeders have their own detailed requirements before selling a pet and provide a lot of information.
“It’s so emotional to get to the point where you’re about to have a pet and you’re so excited – and then you’re just a ghost,” Hardy said. “It’s so hard to find happiness in a pandemic, in a world where everything is chaos… she took the joy away and that’s precious.”