Local pet store caught in middle of suspected puppy fraud ring

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- The Better Business Bureau and a local pet store are warning about a huge spike in complaints about potential fraud involving online puppy sales. One Pet Club in Santa Rosa says it's had people showing up at their store, looking to pick up puppies from an online vendor they had no connection to.

Jason Stanfel is adored by this shih tzu, Zoe.

The pup can't help but lick Jason's face.

He bought her as a gift for his girlfriend after originally trying to buy her a corgi.

Stanfel found photos of a puppy named "Alisha" online and decided he just had to get her for his girlfriend.

He says the online site My Forever Puppy offered to sell it to him with shipping for under $1,000.

Stanfel agreed.

"It was mostly the price. The price was so much cheaper than what anybody else had," Stanfel explained.

He says it wasn't until he sent them the money that he started running into problems.

"They continuously wanted charges for different things. It's like they needed a special crate to ship her in. Need insurance," Stanfel said.

He calculated the total cost after all the fees at $5,250... and still no corgi after two months.

The managers at a Pet Club in Santa Rosa believe Stanfel is being cheated out of his money.

They accuse My Forever Puppy of using the store's address without permission as a supposed pick-up point.

Pet Club has no relationship with My Forever Puppy whatsoever.

Dawn Clayton, manager at Pet Club, says some dog lovers have come from across the country to pick up their puppy only to leave disappointed.

"And literally within 30 seconds of either of us talking to them, they're in tears. They're lost and at first they don't want to believe us," said Clayton.

The stories have been heartbreaking.

"We had a girl from Indiana drive all the way here," said Kelly Schole, a store assistant manager. "She spent just about her life savings trying to get that puppy."

Alma Galvan of the Better Business Bureau says since 2020, both the BBB and Federal Trade Commission have logged a combined 37,000 complaints from people trying to buy puppies online from all kinds of vendors.

The estimated total loss: $3 million.

"We were working from home, some of us were lonely and there were places for example that the shelters ran out of dogs," Galvan said.

The Better Business Bureau right now gets more complaints about the purchase of dogs than anything else.

Galvan says it's no coincidence that My Forever Puppy is using the address of a pet store even though it has no connection to the store.

"It gives them more of a trust issue to have them send money again for their dog that they're interested in purchasing," she said.

Stanfel says My Forever Puppy is now asking him for another $5,000 to sue the shipping company. "They wanted me to pay the court costs up front and then I would get the $11,500 check. I told them hell over high water, I'm sending you another dime."

We've reached out to My Forever Puppy six times, and so far have not heard back. My Forever Puppy's website is down, but people have left comments on their social media warning other customers of a potential scam.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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