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Pet Buyers Targeted in International Scam, BBB Warns

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There may be tens of thousands of victims.

ARLINGTON, VA – The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of an international scheme to sell non-existent puppies and other pets to unsuspecting consumers.

The scam “may be significantly more organized and widespread than generally believed,” according to a BB press release. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of an international scheme to sell non-existent puppies and other pets to unsuspecting consumers. 

In a new report, “Puppy Scams: How Fake Online Pet Sellers Steal from Unsuspecting Pet Buyers,” BBB says the scams are so widespread that anyone searching for a pet online is likely to encounter them.

The report estimates that tens of thousands of consumers in the U.S. and around the world may have fallen victim, with prospective buyers losing anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars each. The report recommends coordinated and aggressive law enforcement and increased consumer education.

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“These cases can be devastating to families who are waiting for pets that will never come,” said Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “These are not just a few isolated cases of naïve consumers being taken. This is a highly organized, international scheme focused on one thing – stealing people’s money.”

The report was prepared by C. Steven Baker, retired director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Midwest Region now serving as an international investigations specialist for an alliance of five local BBBs based in St. Louis, Omaha, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas.

Most puppy scam victims are hooked into the scam by photos of cuddly terriers, miniature bulldogs or other puppies, BBB states. Other consumers believed they were paying for kittens, parrots or other animals to be delivered to their homes.

In the typical scam, thieves impersonate pet sellers and instruct potential buyers to make upfront payments for shipping, insurance and other fees.

In most cases, buyers never receive the pets, and they lose their money, according to BBB.

Most of the scams appear to originate in the West African nation of Cameroon and use workers in the U.S. to pick up wire payments sent through Western Union or MoneyGram.

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US Pet Food Spending Falls to $28.9B

The segment accounts for 37% of total US pet spending.

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Pet food spending in the U.S. fell by 7.3 percent in 2018 to $28.85 billion, according to the Pet Business Professor blog.

The $2.27 billion decrease stood in contrast to 2017, when food spending grew by $4.6 billion “due to a deeper market penetration of super premium foods,” the blog’s John Gibbons writes.

A small increase in pet food spending had been anticipated in 2018. The unexpected decrease “was likely due to the reaction to the FDA warning on grain free dog food,” Gibbons explained, noting: “A pattern of over 20 years was broken by 1 statement.”

Pet food spending has been choppy since 1997, with the general pattern being “2 years up then spending goes flat or turns downward for a year,” according to the blog.

Total pet spending in the U.S. climbed by 1.9 percent in 2018 to reach $78.6 billion, according to the blog. The pet food segment accounts for 37 percent of total U.S. pet spending.

 

 

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Video: Brave Housecat Fends Off 3 Coyotes

This feline showed moxie.

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A cat in the Highland Park neighborhood could have been in serious trouble when three coyotes came along.

But Max, who belongs to Maya Gurrin, showed amazing courage, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Max was surrounded, and the coyotes were nipping at him. But Max showed no fear. He even caused one of the coyotes to back away and jump onto a nearby wall.

“He’s always been crazy,” Gurrin said. “Like, if this were to happen with any cat, it would be him.”

The entire scene was captured on security camera.

As tough as Max may be, his owners have nonetheless decided not to let him roam outdoors anymore.

Watch the video:

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Dogs May Be More Perceptive Than We Ever Realized, Study Finds

Even untrained strays can read human gestures.

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Dogs seem to be able to interpret human gestures even when they’ve had no training, a new study has found.

As any dog owner knows, pet canines understand commands and gestures with ease. A group of researchers set out to determine whether these capabilities are innate or require training, according to a report from Frontiers Science News.

The researchers looked specifically at pointing, with Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India, and colleagues studing stray dogs in several Indian cities.

“The researchers approached solitary stray dogs and placed two covered bowls on the ground near them,” Frontieers Science News reports. “A researcher then pointed to one of the two bowls, either momentarily or repeatedly, and recorded whether the dog approached the indicated bowl.”

About 80 percent of participating dogs successfully followed pointing gestures.

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“We thought it was quite amazing that the dogs could follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing,” Bhadra was quoted saying. “This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision. This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

The research was published in Frontiers in Psychology.

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