Due to many inquiries about how to watch out for pet flippers, our columnist has revisited the topic in her current column. Very timely, given that the Christmas season is when pet flippers are very active. Let’s all work to keep animals safe from these criminals!

By Stef dela Cruz, MD

You see a cute puppy online. You’re in luck; he’s for sale! You purchase him—only to find out later that he’s been stolen from his original human.

This is a screenshot of an actual online ad. Would you be interested in a Siberian Husky sold online by a stranger for R2,000, knowing it could have been “flipped”?

Unfortunately for you, the possession of stolen goods is a crime. At best, you never get your money back—and yes, you lose the puppy.

It’s a cautionary tale about indiscriminate pet buying. You should know it by heart if you’re looking for a furry companion, especially with pet flippers out there happily duping potential adoptive parents like you…all for the sake of profit.

ABSOLUTELY CRIMINAL – Let’s not mince words: pet flipping is illegal. The amended version of the Animal Welfare Act holds people accountable if they sell or trade animals without registering with the Bureau of Animal Industry.

But in case animal flippers somehow end up with legit certificates of registration to sell animals, it is still illegal for them to buy or adopt animals if they are deprived of adequate care. In a separate section, the republic act dictates that causing an animal “any unnecessary suffering” after its original owner relinquishes possession is considered maltreatment.

REVISITING THE DEFINITION – “Flipping” is the act of buying something for cheap and turning it into something profitable. In real estate, it can lead to problems in economy and may even be abused as an illegal scheme, but it is not necessarily prohibited if done by the book.

When animals are the ones getting “turned,” however, flipping is always an atrocious practice.

The minimum penalty is a 50,000 fine, imprisonment for one year and one day, or both.

While the law helps to ensure that this questionable practice gets punished, we don’t need the law to tell us that it’s wrong.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. Stop buying pets from random ads on Facebook or online selling platforms. In fact, don’t buy from pet stores, too. Adopt purebreds from responsible breeders, not from fly-by-night sellers who might be flippers.

2. Demand information. Responsible breeders are happy to discuss everything about their dogs and cats, from temperament to the breed’s history, according to Robin Tierney’s article for Partnership on Animal Welfare. Pet flippers, on the other hand, won’t have the same know-how. They probably won’t even have past records of visits to the vet.

3. Ask for old pictures. Flippers are not likely to have pictures of animals as they were growing up, as pointed out by Alyssa Kleven for My Northwest.

4. Don’t buy from people who never seem to run out of various pets to sell. Responsible breeders usually specialize in less than a handful of breeds. Resellers, who find animals to sell just about anywhere, have a rather diverse collection of animals.

5. Adopt; don’t shop. While buying pets from responsible breeders ensures that animals are bred humanely, rescuing and adopting show the most compassion for animals that are in desperate need of a home. Adopting cats and dogs from shelters or foster parents also ensures that pets find homes not for profit’s sake, but for theirs.

REFERENCES:

• Kleven, A. (2013, September 9). How to spot a dog flipper and save your pup from becom-ing a victim. Retrieved June 12, 2017 from http://mynorthwest.com/69538/how-to-spot-a-dog-flip-per-and-save-your-pup-from-becoming-a-victim/

• Lindstrom, H. (2007). Property flipping as neighborhood destablization versus short term real estate investment (STREI) as community reinvestment: A case study of Buffalo, NY. Re-trieved June 12, 2017 from http://gradworks.umi.com/14/44/1444023.html

• PAWS.org.ph: The Animal Welfare Law as amended. Retrieved June 12, 2017 from http://www.paws.org.ph/the-amended-animal-welfare-act-ra-8485ra-10631.html

• Tierney, R. How Responsible Breeders Differ from Backyard Breeders and Pet Shops. Retrieved June 12, 2017 from http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_breedersandpetshops.php

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s December 2017 issue.