How to Buy a Bull Terrier and Not Get Scammed

Updated on July 9, 2019
Jana Louise Smit profile image

As an animal welfare worker, Jana worked with bull terriers. She had a boarding home for the breed and currently owns a perky specimen.


When You Fall for That Face

You finally decided to get your dream dog, the Bull Terrier. Perhaps you are still weighing the pro's and con's of gender and color, or debating the potential name of your schnookums. This is all very exciting, as it should be. Unfortunately, you could be entering a minefield. Not every snag in your quest to hug that pup to your chest is born of a criminal mind. Some breeders are inept or sell inferior stock (although well-meaning and lovers of the breed). The latter could cost you a lifetime of vet bills. Any dog breed comes with hallmark health issues, and the Bull Terrier is no different. A top quality kennel will ensure a dog with minimal, if any, conditions.

Then, there are the real grenades. Scam artists range from the guy trying to fleece somebody for the first time to the syndicate doing it for a living. They usually provide perfect photos of puppies that will make any enthusiast lose their mind and caution.

X Marks the Kennel

So, where are they? These hard-to-find people who breed quality Bull Terriers? Many individuals who set out to purchase their first bully might be surprised how close this community can be. It is not about exclusivity (although the breed ranks pretty high up there). Criminal activities surrounding this dog does not stay with the sale of fake pups. Because they are so expensive, some enthusiasts (who clearly lack certain morals) opt to steal somebody else's pet and save themselves the expense. Others kidnap the dogs to produce litter after litter, which is then sold cheaply. This is not only a cruel practice, but it also devastates the original owner.

The worst reasons involve dogs being stolen for illegal fighting rings. As clownish as Bull Terriers can be, they were bred to fight and unfortunately, this horrific racket is big business. For all these reasons, owners are careful about spreading the presence of their dogs. This is also why most sellers prefer to advertise their pups online and meet with a potential buyer away from the home or kennel. However, this protective measure makes fertile ground for scam artists. Online, anonymity is almost guaranteed, and disappearing can happen in an instant. Just what criminals want.

The First Step

Let's return to the start. You want a Bull Terrier and you are (sort of) alright with the eye-watering price. Where to begin? There are several options. If you happen to know somebody with a fine specimen and they don't mind talking about their dog—when dog people meet, heck, they can't stop talking—then ask if they were happy with the breeder. Many breeders who are truly fantastic receive just as wonderful word-of-mouth advertising.

Chances are that you don't know anybody with a bouncy bully. All that remains are classifieds and the online presence of breeders. This mention of classifieds refers to ads in reputable dog magazines you can find on the shelf. The best online classifieds are usually placed on the website of a particular country's main kennel body. In South Africa, this will be KUSA (Kennel Union of Southern Africa) and in the United States, it will be the AKC (American Kennel Club). Avoid ads placed on free sites, general magazines, and social media. The social media factor will be explained in a short while.

Assess the Breeder in Person

This is the crux of the matter. If done successfully, you will get a healthy rubber-ball dog that will provide the friendship and the humor bullies are known for. If not, you will be scammed out of a lot of money and be no closer to your own cherished clown. Worse, and this does happen, you will be sold an infected puppy. There have been cases where new owners lost newly bought pups to severe diseases such as parvo. It is of paramount importance not to let excitement rush the decision-making process. The adage “prevention is better than cure” has never been more important. In this case, it also prevents huge financial loss or the death of a pet.

If you are lucky enough to meet with a nearby breeder, then discuss everything that comes to mind. Find out if they are registered with the country's main kennel club, if the dogs have papers, will be given their shots and if the parents can be viewed. If denied any or all, it should be a deal breaker. Again, remember that this article is only a guide. If a breeder seems genuine in your opinion, the pups look plump and happy, but the parents are nowhere in sight and the papers “are in the mail”, then you must decide. Not every kennel is ideal in the sense that you can view parents, receive instant papers or a vaccinated pup. This doesn't mean all of them are bad. Just not ideal.

Warning: If a person pushes a sale, looks jumpy, or can't provide answers about themselves, their dogs, or the breed, then be very careful. A good breeder will never rush you to pick a pup because “they're going fast” and will patiently answer any inquiries. In fact, the best breeders worry about the puppies they sell. They want to see that you are a true lover of the breed. A scammer won't care if a Martian picks a puppy, as long as it hands over the dough.

Showing Is a Good Sign

Top breeders are also active in the show world.
Top breeders are also active in the show world. | Source

Assess the Breeder Online

Online assessment is more difficult. All you have is the information they make available. Off the bat, ignore ads and sites that obviously cost the breeder nothing or very cheaply. Pride radiates from a reputable kennel's banner—it will be in color, showing their best dogs, the kennel name and contact details. They don't normally use phrases like “litter available, three males, two females." They usually work down a waiting when pups are ready to go home. The only way you get on that waiting list is to contact them via email or phone. A good kennel will then assess you. You might be asked to fill out an application, so they can see your reasons and experience with the breed. If approved, they will add you to the roll or show available pups. You might even be asked to sign a contract requiring you to have the puppy examined by a vet after purchase or return the dog should you no longer be able to care for it.

Unlike criminals or puppy mills, who only provide pets, you will be given the opportunity to pick a house pet, show dog or a future breeding animal. Prices will differ, but you can bet the show and breeding dogs will cost more.

Avoid short, worded ads with no images. Also, people who are in it for the money will have second-grade websites. A true kennel will show off their brood and studs, victories in the show ring, their qualifications as judges and experience with the breed.

The site will stay updated, interactive and informative. The scammers often have blurry photos, or images too good to be true, little information about themselves or promote products more than the dogs. Other websites have pages that are sparsely populated and sprinkled with dead buttons. That being said, the best puppy scams have some fantastic websites. Not every scam is immediately obvious, but even professional criminals will struggle not to push the sale and lose patience with too many questions. If a breeder answers but is short-worded, rude or not informative, move on. He or she is not the only cookie in the jar.

Ten Clear Signs That Indicate a Bad or False Breeder

Here are the top ten signs that trouble is afoot. They are not exhaustive but should provide some guidance to help identify a bad apple.

  1. The dodgy deposit. For example, one scam demands half the fee upfront for an unborn but “you-can-book-it” litter. The banking details are blatantly part of the order form, so without the deposit, you cannot order. Others wrangled deposits more subtly but unless it is a highly recognized kennel, don't even consider it.
  2. Hidden fees. A genuine sale will lay bare all the costs involved. A scam artist will milk somebody after the sale, requesting more money for the transport (they usually pretend to live far away), then some registration, vaccinations, the President's signature and so forth. Many people keep paying because they really want the dog or fear that if they don't pay, the sale will fall through and they'll lose everything. If a breeder doesn't explain every cent beforehand, or spike a price after guaranteeing the previous amount, then there is trouble.
  3. They push the sale.
  4. Displaying ignorance. Some scammers don't bother to learn breed nuances. One example is advertising a registered litter from parents listed as standard and miniature. There is no such thing as a purebred Bull Terrier born from such a cross. Standard and miniature Bull Terriers are viewed as two distinct breeds, and their offspring considered a crossbreed and will never be registered by a kennel club.
  5. Unprofessional website or conduct.
  6. They show signs of being a puppy mill; dogs are in cages and clearly lethargic or kennel stressed. Authentic breeders do not have many dogs, nor another breed. Puppy farms cater to current trends and will have several breeds other than bullies. Knowledgeable breeders understand the Bull Terrier's need for a family life and raise litters in the home.
  7. They avoid showing the puppy. In other words, they are not open to your request to view the puppy in person.
  8. Social media heavy. Many scams or unethical breeders hit social media. The reason? They reach a large audience quickly and free. Generally not well-received by animal lovers who view it as pet-peddling at its worst, somewhere, somebody will buy. Professional breeders have social media links, but these usually promote their main site, not litters.
  9. If it's too good to be true, it usually is. A fantastic-looking Bull Terrier available for the price of a doughnut with free shipping and all vaccinations is a honey trap. There's no bully. The general emotions when encountering a real website should be “Sheesh, these dogs are stunning . . . but I'll have to mortgage my soul . . . and what's with the pesky contract and interview?”
  10. Money transfers remain the choice of many authentic kennels. Decide on an option that offers protection for the buyer. If the kennel is against such a payment option, pick somebody else.

Standard and Miniature

A standard Bull Terrier posing with a brindle, miniature companion.
A standard Bull Terrier posing with a brindle, miniature companion. | Source

Additional Tips

  • Do your homework. If they claim to be registered with the main body, approach the club and get their view. Check their online presence and reputation.
  • Consider adoption. There are Bull Terriers up for adoption. Shelters will rarely have puppies available, but young dogs are not uncommon. There are breed-specific rescue groups you can contact to keep you in mind should they rescue a pup.
  • Watch for scams. Keep in mind that scams don't revolve exclusively around poster puppies that do not exist. Others deliver puppies from so-called champion lines and promise to send the pedigree papers (which never arrive), or somebody sells a single dog that might've been stolen.
  • Be cautious of miniatures. If you are in the market for a miniature, be extra careful. Since they are more rare, difficult to breed, expensive, and highly sought after, scams proliferate.

Questions & Answers

  • We are looking at Newton Bull Terriers. Do you have any experience with them?

    Unfortunately not. Remember one very important rule about buying a puppy - you must be able to meet the breeder. Very often, "mail order" pups are scams. Meeting allows you to handle the litter, check out the environment (a home environment rather than a puppy mill), and the mother's condition. I've never dealt with this site before, so do your research on them should you decide to go ahead and get your new bullie from them. Good luck and enjoy your pup, this is really a fantastic breed.

© 2017 Jana Louise Smit


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    • Jana Louise Smit profile imageAUTHOR

      Jana Louise Smit 

      12 months ago from South Africa

      Hi Moose, great comment. I agree with you about the high price and meeting with the breeder and also, seeing the pup's parents. I searched for over two years before I was satisfied with a breeder and I wasn't disappointed. I also adore breeders who have a thousand questions for me before they'd even consider letting me buy - it shows that they care for their pups. The best breeders have the highest prices but the pup's welfare comes first.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      Bull terriers are difficult to find. I live in Canada and it took me a few months to find a reputable breeder. Maybe it’s just me, but I won’t purchase a puppy who’s ever parents I can’t meet and not see where they and their parents are living so I can determine quality of life and see just how much the dogs actually mean to the breeder. My breeder wouldn’t even accept a deposit until she met me. If you see bull terriers for sale under 2,000$, it’s highly probable they are not legit.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I’ve been on a search for a bull terrier for a very long time now. I actually bought one yesterday and then canceled it later because I found out it was a scam. That was a close one. Even though he did not get my money, I was heart broken and sad at the fact that there is no dog. I had high hopes and was very excited to meet him. If you know anyone selling bull terriers that is not a scam please let me know


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