No pedigree? No problem! An incredible scam has been discovered at a market in Argentina, where would-be dog owners have found themselves walking away with a great deal on a poodle…that’s actually a ferret. Yes, you read that correctly. A ferret. It’s one of the most bizarre scams we’ve come across in a while.
Customers initially think they’re buying an expensive toy poodle at a discount. But unscrupulous vendors are actually feeding steroids to ferrets and fluffing their fur to give them a puppy-like appearance.
The pet scam was sniffed out by an older man who purchased two “toy poodles” and brought them to a vet. The doctor then informed the man, to his surprise, that he was the proud owner of what locals call “Brazilian rats.”
Fake Puppies at the Market: How Bazaar
The practice of pumping ferrets with hormones and altering their appearance to dog-like proportions is far from an isolated occurrence at La Salada, a popular (and illegal) Buenos Aires market. La Salada is densely populated by all kinds of merchants, from purveyors of high-end goods to small food carts.
And there’s no oversight. It’s “buyer beware” at this hectic center of commerce, where thousands of Bolivian workers who have emigrated to Argentina have formed a self-sufficient economic community.
Locals and tourists alike say it’s a great place to find a discount, and the disguised ferrets have long been dismissed as urban legend — but at least one frustrated doggie lover and a few ‘roid-raging ferrets tell a different story.
How the Pet Scam Works
It turns out the poodle buyer wasn’t alone. Local Buenos Aires news also found a woman who went home with a scrawny ferret thinking it was a Chihuahua. Although neither of the duped customers filed complaints, the news exposure has pulled back the curtain on this shocking pet scam.
As the largest illegal market in South America, La Salada contains many sellers who will stoop low to make a profit. The going price of a domesticated ferret in the states is about $75, and toy poodles can run well over $1,000. However, these vendors sell the made-over ferrets for as low as $150. Surprisingly, most average pet buyers can’t spot the different right away.
But the two have very different characteristics that are easy to pinpoint if you know what to look for, even if the ferrets have been pumped-up and puffed-out:
- Ferrets have a very long tail (around 13 cm). Toy poodles have a short tail or no tail at all.
- When excited or happy, ferrets make a small clucking noise, jump around and bump into things — this is called a “weasel war dance.” Poodles will wag their tail, bark, etc.
- While a ferret weighs three pounds, a toy poodle will weigh around nine.
- Ferrets can be suspicious of people at first, while toy poodles are naturally affectionate.
Breed Some Smart Pet-Shopping Instincts
When you’re looking for a new canine companion, it may be easy to get swept up and ignore telltale signs of a scam. After all, no one wants to believe their fluffy pup is a weasel.
But even if you’re not hunting for a bargain at La Salada, remember to always keep your guard up when purchasing a pet. Be wary of pets for sale on Craigslist, research the breeder or pet store, and always ask for documentation of your pooch, kitty or — yes — even your ferret.
Have you ever fallen victim to a pet scam? Throw us a bone in the comments!
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