When we choose to welcome a dog into our home, we usually give a great deal of consideration as to how we go about finding our new four-legged family member. I think it’s fair to say the majority of people prefer to take on a puppy or young dog, but we also might like the idea of rehoming a rescue dog. Combining adopting a rescue and the desire for a puppy is emotive, and this leads to scammers channelling this for making a disingenuous “fast buck”. Fuelled further by the demand for puppies in the pandemic, this has led to a Facebook puppy scam that has grown at an alarming rate.
What is the Facebook Puppy Scam?
If you are a Facebook user, you might have seen groups and pages about specific dog breeds available for adoption. For our breed there are two main groups that I’m aware of currently; “Italian Greyhounds for Adoption” and “Italian Greyhound Puppies for Adoption”. There are other Italian Greyhound-related groups, country specific, subtle changes in wording, but all purporting to be about finding an Italian Greyhound to “adopt”. Within these groups, you will regularly find entire litters of 8 week old puppies available for “adoption”. By regularly, I mean weekly. Considering how expensive Italian Greyhound puppies are to buy, it’s astonishing that so many whelping bitches are rescued and their litter available for adoption. Except there aren’t. These puppies are not for adoption at all, they are for sale.
That’s if the puppies even exist. There are cases known within the Italian Greyhound community where unsuspecting adopters have paid as much as £2000 to “adopt” an Italian Greyhound puppy that didn’t even exist to begin with. Admin’s within these groups have been caught using other people’s puppy pictures to advertise these fake litters and individual dogs/puppies.
Why advertise available litters for adoption and not just for sale?
Facebook, and it’s new company name “Meta”, alleges to have a ban on on the sale of animals between private individuals on Facebook, but they do not want to stop charities from advertising rescue animals in need of loving homes. A registered business/charity can advertise animals for sale, but private individuals cannot. Or so they say. You can read Meta’s public policy on advertising animals here. Therefore, Pages, Groups and adverts blatantly advertising the private sale of animals receive an automatic ban and subsequent removal.
A Giant Issue
Facebook/Meta has a gigantic customer base, with a whopping 2.989 billion active users reported as of 11th May 2023. It’s fair to say that monitoring this active user-base is not an easy undertaking. Therefore, Facebook/Meta uses keywords, key phrases, and algorithms to decide what is and isn’t allowable according to their “community standards“.
Naturally, this does leave a somewhat massive, unavoidable margin of error, with it being completely impossible for such methods to perceive the context of a Page, Group, or Post. Hence, you can receive a 3 day restriction on your account under Facebook/Meta’s Bullying policy for calling yourself a “twat” for locking your keys in the house, or have your post removed under their Hate Speech policy for referring to a female dog as a bitch. As annoying as this is, given Facebooks colossal user-base, it is understandable that this is a necessary approach to keeping Facebook an inclusive and reasonable online community. However, Facebook/Meta does give users the option to report people, Pages, Groups, and adverts for secondary review, for what that is worth (which apparently isn’t much).
What is Meta doing about the Facebook Puppy Scam?
Apparently, absolutely nothing.
Despite numerous reports from bone fide Facebook users, these Pages and Groups continue to operate completely unhindered. Facebook/Meta is completely complicit with sellers and scammers using the word “adoption” to bypass their policy on the private sale of animals (real or fake) via the Facebook platform. Every time an incident is reported to Facebook a response is returned that they have reviewed the post and found that it “doesn’t go against our Community Standards”.
Taking matters further
Through my work I do get the opportunity to liaise directly with Facebook/Meta representatives, and I have taken the opportunity to report the matter for further review. As a result, I was invited to submit my concerns for independent review, outside of the Facebook/Meta company. Sadly, I don’t expect a favourable outcome. With the sheer volume of social issues, scams, conflicts, and more that Facebook/Meta must have to process, I cannot see puppy sales, real or fake, being seen as much of a priority.
“Let the buyer beware”
As annoying and unjust this situation is, the best we can do is to protect ourselves from this growing scam, as it is apparent that Facebook has no intention of stopping it, regardless of what they say in their “Community Standards”. Having been a member of these groups for some while now, diligently reporting breaches of Facebook/Meta’s supposed “Community Standards”, I have seen such blatant fake advertising it is a wonder that buyers are falling for it. However, so strong is the desire to obtain a puppy, what is obvious to others is overlooked by the over-keen buyer.
Spotting the signs
I have spent months watching activity within these groups, and have even engaged with advertisers out of curiosity to see how they operate:
- A litter of puppies (usually coming up to 8 weeks old and ready to go to their new homes) is advertised by a Group Admin as “available for adoption”. This obviously triggers a reaction of comments and private messages to the Group Admin.
- A matter of weeks later, an alleged “adopter” of one of the puppies posts a message of gratitude, endorsing the Group Admin, repeating their full name a ridiculous amount of times and referring to the fact that they are a Group Admin (arguably obvious that this is a set up!). In turn, this triggers another wave of response and contact with the endorsed advertiser.
- A few weeks later the Group Admin has disappeared and their Facebook account has been deleted. A new range of Group Admins have been installed and the whole process starts again.
I have even gone so far as to enquire after a puppy in order to see how the advertiser responds to direct questions. They are extremely careful in how they word their correspondence, and cannot be caught out in mentioning the words sell, sale, selling, buy, etc. In my exchange with an advertiser (no long gone and no longer on Facebook), I was sent a picture of a blue girl who was apparently the last one left in the litter, with other interested parties in correspondence, “so get in fast”. I was asked for a deposit of £950. The advertiser would not give any further detail about the puppy, her parents, whether she was KC registered or not, until I committed to when and how I was going to pay the £950 deposit. All of this contains so many red flags, yet these scammers are clearly making a roaring trade out of doing this.
How can I protect myself from falling for the Facebook Puppy Scam?
Quite simply, never use Facebook to find and buy a puppy. Some of these scams are blatantly obvious when you are not looking for a puppy yourself. When you are, judgement is easily clouded.
Genuine, responsible breeders will:
- not have a constant stream of puppies available to buy
- not need to advertise their litters online
- not need to pull any form of stunt on Facebook in order to find good homes for their puppies
- be quite happy to discuss all your questions and concerns in a phone call before you even view a puppy
- question you and your home and circumstances as much as you question them about their puppies
- not ask for a deposit before you have even met them and seen the puppy, and they have approved you as an owner of one of their puppies
- have health-tested puppy-parents, and will be more than happy to fully discuss what this means
When choosing a breeder and puppy:
- be prepared to wait for a quality litter of puppies from health-tested parents.
- be prepared to travel to meet your breeder and puppy, and to collect your puppy.
It is better to invest this time and have a quality puppy from a breeder who will be there to support and advise you for the life of the puppy they have bred.
Before you start your search for your own Italian Greyhound, read our advice on finding a puppy here. Also, do speak to the Puppy Coordinator at the Italian Greyhound Club and/or the Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity for impartial advice on how to find your ideal Italian Greyhound puppy or dog.
© Kelly Wallace Horne, Italian Greyhound Active Health Project 2023. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Wallace Horne, The Italian Greyhound Club, and www.italiangreyhoundactivehealth.org.uk with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.