'Pet flipping' leaves animal lovers devastated

ATLANTA (WXIA) -- If you're a pet lover, we've got a warning for you.

If your pet disappears or you gave it to someone thinking it was going to get a good home, you might want to go online. You could be surprised to find your pet is for sale!

It's called pet flipping, and it can be devastating both to the owner and to the animal.

It happened to Divina Mims. We met her in downtown Atlanta to talk about her little Chihuahua, Munchie.

"I had an older daughter, a new baby coming, so I wanted to find him a good home," Mims said.

She was still distraught over what happened to her one year ago.

A pet is just a click away on sites like Craigslist. Craigslist rules state "no animal sales," but you can charge re-homing fees. Look out! Some are posted by pet flippers looking to make a buck.

"Minutes after I posted this, I got flooded with emails. 'I'll take him, I'll take him, I'll take him'," Mims said.

She thought she'd found her pet a good home -- a mom with kids.

"Once my daughter saw that the other little girls were happy, she felt more comfortable and safe to say, 'Okay Mom, we can let him go.' And then I started getting new emails -- 'Be careful, you didn't ask any money for your dog, there are dog flippers out there. You need to be careful,'" Mims said.

Sure enough, within 24 hours, Munchie was for sale for $100. She immediately contacted the woman.

"Called her back later that day, said, 'Hey listen, this is really not sitting well with me, I want my dog,' and at the point she started getting belligerent -- 'I didn't do anything illegal, it's not illegal, you shouldn't have gave him to me. He's mine now. I can do what I want,'" Mims said.

It's happening across the country. Janelle Carr's little Chihuahua, Stewart, disappeared on her wedding night in Indianapolis.

"I hit the street. I was out looking for him," Carr said.

It wasn't until she landed on a lost pet site that she got help. Alerts went out. The dog was for sale online.

"I'm the one with the gun and the badge and I go knocking on doors," said Indianapolis police officer Theresa Redmon.

Redmon got Stewart back. He'd been flipped twice in nine days.

Officer Redmon might be the only officer in the country going after dishonest pet flippers.

"I've known for these animals to be flipped all the way to Georgia," she said.

In May, the Fulton County Animal Shelter returned a dog to Indiana.

"We called the microchip company and they referred us to the owner in Indiana," said Lara Hudson with the Fulton County Animal Services.

"Any idea how it ended up here?" asked 11Alive reporter Ross McLaughlin.

"I wish I could ask the dog that question," she said.

"Everyone was saying what? How'd that dog get down there? My opinion, he got flipped all the way down there," Redmon said.

Stealing dogs and selling them is illegal. Pet flipping is not, unless the seller makes misrepresentations during the sale. Redmon says that's how she has successfully charged pet flippers.

"If you found my kid, my child, my daughter, would you put her on Craigslist tomorrow? It's the same thing," she said.

"To this day I still haven't been able to tell my daughter that Munchie is gone. I can't tell her. I can't tell her. She loved that dog. She really did," Mims said, her eyes filling with tears.

She also can't believe who did it.

"A mom with kids!" Mims said.

To protect your pet, get it microchipped and never leave it alone. If it's missing, check online sites to see if it shows up for sale and make copies of those ads in case you try to get authorities involved.


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