By John Lauritsen

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) — If you’ve been thinking about adopting a dog, you already know pets are in high demand.

Due to the pandemic, some shelters saw a 40% jump in adoptions last year, and that number keeps growing.

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WCCO’s John Lauritsen shows us how to avoid adoption scams while making sure a dog fits into your family’s budget.

“She’s laid back. She’s playful. She doesn’t shed,” Naomi Schuler said. “She bites. She eats a lot of masks.”

It’s a dog’s life in this Maple Grove neighborhood. And in the middle of it all is Willow, a 6-month-old Bernedoodle who’s the newest member of the Schuler family.

“My oldest daughter had a binder of information so it was really easy for us to start looking,” Bret Schuler said.

“We had been thinking about it for a really long time and it just felt like knowing we were going to be home was the right time to do it, and we had the kids to help us,” Naomi Schuler said.

Knowing the kind of dog they wanted helped the Schulers find a reputable breeder at a time when adoption scams are at an all-time high.

Last year, 77 Minnesotans reported online pet scams, adding up to more than $100,000 in losses ($104,854). That’s more than 10 times the pre-pandemic amount.

Janelle Dixon, president and CEO of the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, believes high demand and short supply have opened a door for scammers.

“That’s why there has been a lot more opportunity for people with dishonest intentions to get into the market and try to sell people animals that don’t actually even exist,” Dixon said.

To avoid losing out, the Humane Society recommends visiting the breeder. Dogs should be living in clean conditions and in good health.

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“What you want to see is a dog that is happy and alert and coming up to you,” Dr. Angelica Dimock, a veterinarian, said.

Other red flags include a seller who asks for an unusual payment method, like a money transfer that can’t be reversed.

It’s also good to run the seller’s name through a pet scammer’s list and use websites that refer families to reputable rescues and shelters.

While they did background checks on breeders the Schulers also created a pet budget.

“We knew it was going to be a big expense and it’s been great,” Bret Schuler said.

Food is an expense that varies greatly. Annual costs for smaller breeds range between $200 and $350. For larger breeds a starting point is about $400 but it can be a lot more depending on the type of dog you get.

Dog owners should plan to spend about $30 on a collar and leash. Another $50 on a crate and $50 more on toys and treats. Training classes cost about $100 on average, and grooming could run you a couple hundred dollars a year.

“Spay and neuter can cost anywhere from $300 to $600 or $700,” Dixon said.

The Humane Society offers ongoing services to help with challenges at home. And they believe money should never get in the way of a pet finding its forever home.

“It provides a certain level of emotional support and comfort for the family and the family provides the same thing back to the pet,” Dixon said.

The Humane Society receives hundreds, even thousands of applications when a new transport of puppies comes in. While dogs are in short supply, they have an abundance of cats and rabbits right now.

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We’ve posted links to reputable pet-finder websites for you on wcco.com.

John Lauritsen