Pet product spending increases, so does pet fraud

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Dabbing at the perspiration on her forehead with a tissue in one hand, and the backside of her other hand, Rhonda LaCasse, lets out a loud vocal sigh of completion.

“I’d have been done sooner, but I’ve had some bad kids today,” says the owner of Grooming by Rhonda. “Every once in a while you get those that just won’t behave and they take longer.”

When LaCasse started grooming pets in her State Street site in 1997, she was out in the country. In fact, most of State Street was somewhat countrified back then, she’ll tell you. It was good back then since many of her clients were dogs that bark.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but this the first year in a while that I’ve been bustin’ the hump in August,” she says. “Usually, we see it taper off as parents get their kids back to school and they try to squeeze in those final vacations.”

Last year, Americans spent more than $53 billion on food, veterinary care, kennels, grooming and services, according to the American Pet Products Association. Trade group president and CEO Bob Vetere says it’s an increase of 5% from 2011. As to grooming, boarding, and pet-sitting, it grew by as much as 10% over the same time period reaching almost $4.4 billion.

This spending also increases fraud.

Idaho Falls resident Carole Smith (not her real name) called BBB after receiving a phone call saying she’d won hundreds of dollars in prizes and a million dollar grand prize after she’d signed up to receive “free stuff ” from an online resource.

“He had my name and address, and asked me for my zip code,” she says. “I never signed up for anything of course, and I didn’t give him any information.”

BBB called the number on caller ID, and a man answered, “All About The Pets, how may I help you?”

“Robert,” an employee, says they are in New York. The company provides discounts, coupons and rebates on pet accessories, food and veterinary services.

“All they have to do is go to the website, allaboutthepets.com to register and they get discounts by mail,” he says.

Robert says All About The Pets does not need Social Security numbers, and they don’t hold drawings or lotteries.

He denied calling Mrs. Smith.

When BBB searched for the website, it did not exist. There is no business record with the New York Secretary of State. There is no such business in the BBB directory. There are several websites for allaboutpets and one – allaboutthepet.com (note no “s”).

When BBB called the number later, there was no answer.

Another incident involved a Twin Falls couple looking for a family pet.

For weeks, Jeremy and Shelli Ajeti have searched for an English Bulldog puppy. Classifieds –print and electronic – were scoured and pored over almost nightly.

“Then, I came across an ad on Craigslist from a woman in Boise who said she had a boy and a girl,” Shelli says. “It was perfect.”

The couple wrote immediately, expressing their excitement, compassion and aspiration to own a bulldog puppy. Their inbox was flooded with gorgeous brown and white dog pictures. And, a note saying the owner had moved to Montana.

Legitimate-looking websites and classified ads entice pet shoppers with cute puppy pictures, detailed descriptions, and below-average prices.

For Shelli Ajeti, this was only the beginning of the nightmare struggle to find a pet.  Three times the couple responded to listings, only to be disappointed when it was discovered it was a scam.

BBB says be cautious when buying products from online retailers.

  • Do research on online search engines before making purchases.
  • Search for reliable “Pet Supplies & Foods – Retail” companies on bbb.org.
  • Beware of sites with bad reviews by growling consumers.

Supplements and food choices top the list of pet health while pet sitting, pet grooming and pet transportation lead increase pet services.

“With the Internet reach across the globe added to the increasing sense of hardship, the steady growth pet moving industry has become a popular target for deceptive practices,” says Terri L Malueg-Ray, a dog expert with Royal Paws. “For a few hundred dollars with anonymous registrations a professional looking web site of copied material can be up and luring consumers with deceptive claims ‘experienced’ or ‘pet handler.'”

She says unscrupulous people can, within a few short weeks, trick pet lovers to hand over their pets along with cash, bank transfers or other less secure payment than credit card direct purchases for sub-Parr services.

“As with all services or products found on the Internet, doing your homework has never been more important,” she says.

LaCasse agrees. With more than 20 years of experience, grooming requirements and expectations have doubled. Owners need to meet and talk with their pet provider.

“I’m not one to hold back,” LaCasse says. “I’ll tell people when they’re out of line with their animals, and I’ve seen a lot of animals over the years.”

BBB urges pet owners to find trustworthy service providers on bbb.org.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Pet product spending increases, so does pet fraud

  1. Mark Burrows

    Here is a suggestion for people with pets. Take some courses on how to groom your pet. Sure, you might scoff at the cost of the course, but in the long run it is a double benefit. First it pays itself in grooming costs, second the bond between you and your pets increases.
    Then it is a matter of educating yourself of what is the best dietary supplements that are required for your pets. All massed produced feed is full of fillers and preservatives no matter how much they pride themselves in natural ingredients. You can just as easily get a food dryer, and even a jerky maker and create pet food yourself and vacuum seal them into packets and freeze them. Then take out as needed and reconstitute in seconds in the microwave or some just by running hot water over the packet and dumping it out in the dish. You pets love this, have shiny coats of fur, and bright eyes as well as high activity.
    Health care is more tricky. Pets can not explain their symptoms to you. Still it does not take much effort to learn some common symptoms of common illnesses that may inflict your pet and apply home or over the counter remedies. It these do not show signs of recovery, then a trip to the vet is warranted. If in doubt then of course seek out a professional.
    I see expensive litter boxes for cats, I roll my eyes. If you can’t keep a scooper handy and a box of baking soda going and you need to spend the money for a box for your cat to do it’s business and all you do is push a button or turn a crank to clean it, you are far too lazy and wasteful of your cash. That goes for fancy scratch pads, and other toys and devices that have price tags that could feed your pet for a year.
    Pets do not know the difference between a designer ball and a beat up old tennis ball, what they know is that you are devoting time and expressing love by playing with them.
    If you truly love your pet, don’t give them lavish things, they really could care less, you are only feeding your own ego. Taking care of your pet by grooming and training it yourself is reward enough. Save your money for the vet because that is going to be the most expensive adventure.
    As far as the groomers go, they really should teach the grooming courses. It is extra income, and trust me, there will still be many that will refuse to spend the time to groom their own pet because their pet is nothing more than a status symbol. Sad, but true.

    Mark Burrows

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