SAN FRANCISCO — The Animal Legal Defense Legislative Fund released a campaign starring award-winning actress and animal advocate Rooney Mara. The campaign includes ads featuring Mara and her senior dog Oskar and a video which reveals the truth about purchasing animals, such as puppies, online and the fraudulent practices encompassing an industry that targets unsuspecting consumers.
Online scams are widespread, with unethical breeders and dealers frequently selling animals who are sick, stolen, or even nonexistent. The puppies — who are often different from the stock photography images potential buyers browse on websites — sold through online platforms, like Craigslist, primarily come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are large-scale commercial dog-breeding facilities where the emphasis is on profits over the welfare of the dogs. Dogs found in puppy mills are generally kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions. They often lack good food, clean water, and veterinary care. Dogs sold online are often transported to a buyer using an unregulated courier, sometimes well over 3,000 miles without adequate food or water. The mother “breeder” dogs may give birth to multiple litters per year throughout her adult life. They, and aging father dogs, will regularly be abandoned or killed when they are no longer about to produce puppies.
“The holiday season has always been a popular time for puppy scammers,” says actress Rooney Mara. “With local animal shelters and rescue groups overflowing with adoptable animals of all ages and breeds, I hope families who are interested in welcoming an animal companion to seek out their local shelters and never ever buy someone online.”
“Whether selling sick puppies or fraudulently advertising animals that may not even exist, criminals scamming online are completely focused on making a profit without regard for the wellbeing of animals,” says Animal Legal Defense Legislative Fund Executive Director Kim Kelly. “Purchasing animals online should be avoided at all costs regardless of how reputable the seller appears.”
Combating Online Sales
In Nov. 2023, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge issued a decision finding that Craigslist puppy traffickers committed animal neglect and fraud by selling fatally sick dogs to families. For years, members of the Kenney family neglected animals and defrauded consumers in Southern California by misrepresenting the health, age, sex, and breed of puppies they breed and sold through Craigslist and other sites on the internet. Following a lawsuit by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the court found that puppies were kept in unsanitary conditions and sick at the time of sale. The Court also observed that the defendants knew their puppies were contracting deadly diseases such as Parvovirus and provided fabricated immunization records to the families.
In Jan. 2021, animal protection advocate and actress Kim Basinger sent a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster with an urgent request the company end all animal posts on its platform. The letter was sent as part of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s campaign to close a loophole in Craigslist’s policies. Though Craigslist’s official policy bans the sale of animals, animals continue to be advertised and purchased on Craigslist — many under the guise of “rehoming.”
The easiest and most animal-friendly way to avoid online scams is to adopt companion animals from a reputable rescue organization or local municipal animal shelter. Adoption will provide a home for an animal in need while denying unethical dealers an opportunity for fraud.