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Lost dog sleeping on a sidewalk in danger of pet flipping

Animals For Profit: Learn About The Illegal Practice Of Pet Flipping

All pet owners should be aware of the terrible practice of pet flipping (also commonly called dog flipping). According to Animal Law Update, it is defined as the criminal act of stealing a pet and then selling it as a pet in need of a home to unknowing buyers, often through sites like Craigslist.

Another version of pet flipping is when a lost animal is claimed by someone pretending to be the owner, who then turns around and sells it. Still, another variation of pet flipping occurs when a pet is stolen, and the thieves extort ransom from the owners to get it back.

Time Magazine reports that pet flipping is rising across the United States, with some cities like Kansas City, St. Louis, and Indianapolis experiencing a particularly sharp increase. Organized rings of thieves in these cities target particular breeds of dogs with high resale or breeding value, such as pit bulls, German shepherds, Boxers, and Rottweilers.

Take Action: How Owners Can Protect Their Pets

Big dogs aren’t the only targets for flippers. Desirable and popular toy breeds like Yorkies, French bulldogs, and Pugs are also victims. What can you do to protect your beloved pet from being taken by flippers? Here’s some practical advice all pet parents should keep in mind, courtesy of the American Kennel Club:

  • Don’t let your dog go off-leash or leave her unsupervised in the yard or in your car. Cats should also not be left unattended outside.
  • Be suspicious of strangers who ask you questions about your dog (such as “Is it purebred?” or “How much did it cost?”)
  • City dwellers should never tie their dogs up outside of shops or restaurants while they go inside.
  • Ensure your pet is microchipped and the provider has your up-to-date contact information.
  • Don’t participate in pet flipping by buying pets from the Internet, flea markets, or newspaper ads.
  • Get your pets from established shelters and rescue organizations or reputable breeders. Purebred pets should have the proper paperwork.

Warning Signs of a Dog Flipping

A puppy without proper care, one of the signs of dog flipping

Fortunately, there are some obvious warning signs when it comes to pet flippers. Here are some of the cues you should watch out for when considering to buy a new pup:

No records

If the seller you’re talking to has no up-to-date vaccination or other records of their pup, that’s already a big red flag. Responsible breeders or organizations will always keep current records of these pets.

Conflicting stories

Ask about how the seller got his pet. If his story doesn’t match up with the background check you did on him, then there might be something odd going on or he’s hiding something.

Cheap pets

Upkeep for pets is very pricey, especially for certain breeds. Certifications, check-ups, and vaccines will run up a tally on every responsible owners’ wallet.

If the pet you’re getting is being offered at too low a price, it’s a good indication that the pet is either taken from an unreliable source or stolen from its original owner.

Disheveled pet

If the pet you’re about to buy looks like he’s in poor health or being neglected, this is a clear sign of a disreputable dealer. All businesses are legally mandated to take proper care of animals, as written in the Animal Welfare Act.

While these warning signs aren’t necessarily a guarantee that you’re dealing with a pet flipper, the mere presence of such clues should make you pause and do due diligence before taking custody of a new family member.

Popular Ways To Find a Reputable Pet Source

Two dogs chasing each other, a sign that they are cared for

From backyard breeders to potential pet flippers, suspicious sources are almost everywhere. Even some pet stores may source their animals from puppy mills or other questionable practices.

Thorough research is, therefore, the primary call of action when getting a new pet. Thankfully, there are a few ways we can ensure that your new furry friend is taken from an ethical source.

Visit the Animal Shelter or Rescue Groups

Perhaps one of the best options there is, local animal shelters provide many pets that really need rescue. Some of them are also really lax on requirements, which is a plus for new pet parents.

Fees may vary depending on the location but be assured that you have to pay something because these organizations take care of the animal vaccinations and check-ups.

Be reminded that availability is dependent on many factors, such as breed or location. Purebred dogs in shelters are very low in numbers, so it might be good to opt for a mixed breed instead.

Do Your Due Diligence

There is no reason for the lack of research into reputable sellers of dogs. Many online databases are available for public perusal and you should check before buying a pet.

The first step to checking a dealer is to see if they are registered under the American Kennel Club. This non-profit organization oversees the registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States.

Ask for the AKC name or registered number of the parents of the pup you’re trying to adopt. If they do not have it available, they are highly likely not a reputable source.

Another good way to confirm the reputability of a breeder is by checking up on The Canine Health Information Center. If their dogs cannot be found in this database, they are either checked through other organizations (such as PennHip), or they are not to be trusted in the first place.

That said, it is clear that all reputable dealers will be willing to provide papers to prove your pup's health, temperament, and history. Those who refuse to do so may have gotten their pets through questionable ways, such as pet flipping.


Check out some of our cute dog rescue shirts to show your support for the victims of this practice. We ensure that a fourth of the proceeds are donated to no-kill animal shelters.


Is dog flipping illegal?

Yes, stealing dogs is illegal and is punishable by law.

How many dogs are flipped each year?

The AKC stated on 2020 that approximately two million dogs are stolen each year. Whether or not they are all resold remains unknown.

Is there a way to stop dog flippers?

While we can take some precautionary measures to keep our darling pets from being stolen, there is no sure way to stop these people from committing criminal activity.

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