Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to research online dog breeders before buying a pet. A St. Louis family recently lost $500 after they attempted to buy a Shih Tzu from what turned out to be a bogus website.“[The dog] would have been therapeutic for me,” the mother of the family told BBB. “My therapist said it would help me deal with my depression.”In 2017, consumers have filed more than 200 complaints with BBB against dog breeders in the United States and Canada. Many of those involve people paying for pets they never receive.In addition to having the victim pay for pets that don’t exist, the perpetrators also ask for large amounts of money for shipping costs.“It’s unfortunate people continue to be taken in by this ruse,” said Michelle Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO. “Adopting a pet shouldn’t be a hasty decision. Consumers should research breeders to make sure they are legitimate.”The St. Louis mother, a 47-year-old who said she is disabled, told BBB she began her search for a Shih Tzu on April 21 and made contact with someone operating shihtzupuppieshome.com, which claimed to be based in Austin, Texas.The woman told BBB she had picked a dog named “Scott.” She said the website charged her $350 to adopt the dog and $150 for shipping. She was asked to pay through Western Union, which she did immediately after speaking to someone representing the website.The woman told BBB someone with the business contacted her the next day and told her that the dog would need to be shipped in a special crate through a company called Instant Pet Carriers. She told BBB she was going to be charged an additional $400 for shipping.“I told them I didn’t have it,” she told BBB.The woman told BBB the company cut off communication with her after she told them she couldn’t afford the extra shipping costs.A search of web domain registry records found shihtzupuppieshome.com was registered on April 19 from Canada, two days before the woman contacted the company. The website for Instant Pet Carriers – instantpetcarriers.us- was registered on Feb. 18 from Cameroon, Central Africa.While acting as a potential customer, BBB spoke with a man who identified himself as Dr. James Ngeh and said he was the owner of shihtzupuppieshome.com. Ngeh said his company has been breeding dogs for eight years and was located in Austin, Texas. He said the company charges $510 for dogs to be delivered - $350 for the animal and a $160 delivery fee. Ngeh told BBB the delivery fee includes the services of a puppy nanny who is responsible for feeding the animal and delivering it to the consumer.Ngeh told BBB consumers can come to his location and pick up the animals, but they would have to pay a $300 deposit. Ngeh told BBB all money needs to be paid up front by using a money order. Ngeh told BBB each puppy comes with a one-year contract that would guarantee the customer’s money back if the dog was not delivered or if they were not satisfied with the animal. Ngeh told BBB customers could also trade dogs if they didn’t like the first one they received.When asked about why the St. Louis woman did not receive her dog from the company, Ngeh said a man who used to work for the company left without warning and was responsible for the dog not being delivered.“This is not a scam,” Ngeh told BBB after an investigator identified himself as being from the organization. “Something got messed up somewhere.”BBB attempts to reach Instant Pet Carriers were not successful. For more information on how to avoid scams and find reputable puppy breeders, read the bbb study, "Puppy Scams: How Fake Online Pet Sellers Steal From Unsuspecting Pet Buyers." St. Louis Area Media Contacts: Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.orgShellie Kreter, PR & Communications Manager, (314) 584-6723 or (314) 348-5451 (cell), email@example.comDon O’Brien, Investigator, (314) 584-6785, firstname.lastname@example.orgColumbia media contact: Sean Spence, Columbia Regional Director, (573) 886-8965, email@example.comCape Girardeau media contact: Joey Keys, Cape Girardeau Regional Director, (573) 803-3191, firstname.lastname@example.orgQuincy media contact: Mara Clingingsmith, BBB Quincy Regional Director, (217) 209-3972 or (217) 242-6272 (cell), email@example.com About BBBBBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.