Officials are warning Virginia residents about scams involving purebred puppies.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he has received multiple complaints about scammers posing as state-based companies selling purebred pets online.

After paying hundreds of dollars, these fraudsters then ask for a transportation fee, and say the animals can't be delivered without them.

Attorney General Herring is urging consumers to exercise caution when buying purebred puppies or kittens online, and to look out for some of the following red flags indicative of this scam:

  • The puppy or kitten involved in the transaction is a purebred, or a designer breed, and the price of the animal is significantly less than any other site or seller on the internet (more than 50-75 percent off of a similarly-priced purebred);
  • The company requires payment via MoneyGram, Western Union, or other similar method;
  • The representative of the company has a generic free e-mail account, such as through Google or Yahoo, and insists on communication only through e-mail;
  • The seller says that the dog will be transported via air travel, and asks for the closest airport during discussions surrounding the transaction;
  • After the initial fee of several hundred dollars is paid for the animal, the consumer may be asked to pay "pet transportation insurance," or other similar previously-undisclosed fees or charges.

In addition, Attorney General Herring is recommending precautionary steps consumers can take when purchasing a pet from an online business:

  • Be wary of paying for any pet entirely online, or before seeing the animal in person;
  • Seek referrals for pet sellers from sources you know and trust, such as friends, family, or your veterinarian;
  • Search for the business's name or website in the Attorney General's Online Consumer Complaint Database, and check with the local Better Business Bureau for any complaints.

If you feel you have been a victim of one of these scams, please contact Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section, which helps educate consumers about fraud and accepts consumer complaints regarding a variety of issues. You may contact our office to get information or to file a complaint. Visit our website: or call 1-800-552-9963 in Virginia or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area.