A FAMILY was left thousands out of pocket when they bought two Pomeranians online – and fell for a Russian import scam.
Gary and Debbie Humphries paid £6,700 for pups Lunar and Cosmo after seeing them on Instagram.
They were led to believe that they were from a legitimate UK breeder and were registered with the Kennel Club.
But they later discovered they were riddled with disease, their vets’ papers were faked and their microchips traced them back to Russia.
Trading Standards whisked them off to quarantine leaving the family with a vet and kennel bill of £7,700 on top of the money they paid for the dogs.
They are now warning others to be on their guard after they were forced to take Liverpool-based dog seller India Jones – who runs the Instagram page – to court to recoup their money.
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Debbie, 54, said: “The selling of dogs online like this should be banned.
“But until it is, people should do as many checks as possible to make sure they buy from a registered trustworthy breeder.
“Otherwise they could be left heartbroken and out of pocket – just like we were.”
The couple and their daughter Gemma Burdis, 34, already had one Pomeranian and wanted to get two more to keep her company.
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They spotted Lunar and Cosmo on Jones’s Adorabullpoms Instagram account.
Debbie said: “We paid a deposit and were then told to expect delivery of the dogs in a couple of weeks.
“There were a few delays which made us concerned but India reassured us everything was okay and even sent us a copy of her passport to prove she was genuine.
“There was no suggestion the dogs had been bred abroad and were being imported to the UK.
“She told us they were KC registered and we were led to believe they were from a legitimate breeder based in the North West.
“We had no idea they were from Russia. If we had known that they were being driven all over Europe in a van we would never have got them.”
The dogs – which had been transported from Moscow to Spain and then to the UK – finally arrived at their home in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, in a van at 4.30am.
Debbie said: “They were stinking and looked awful.
“They were really wary of us and both had diarrhoea.
“Two weeks later we got an email out of the blue from Trading Standards who wanted to come and see us.
“They said they suspected our dogs had been illegally imported. The vets’ certificates showing they had had all their injections turned out to be fake and they both had an infection which was making them ill.
“The officer said they would have to be quarantined and they were sent to kennels in Scotland.
“We were heartbroken and worried we might not get them back.
“In the end we did, but it cost us.”
Debbie, who works for her daughter’s cosmetics firm, and railway worker Gary took Jones to court and managed to recoup £6,000 of the money they had spent.
A spokeswoman for Campaign group JusticeforReggie, which is calling for regulation of online pet sales, said: “It is truly heart-breaking what Deb, Gary and Gemma have been through which is the same for many of the families who approach us for help.
“Until we see regulation of online selling platforms and social media, there will always be an open-door selling point for these illegal breeders, illegal importers and transporters.”
A spokeswoman for Sunderland City Council said: “Many of the dogs who are illegally imported into the UK have started their lives in appalling conditions on puppy farms, where their health and welfare come second to money and profits.
“We would remind anyone who is looking to buy a puppy to research the seller thoroughly, and only buy from a reputable and licensed breeder or rehoming centre for peace of mind that your new pet is off to the right start.”
Jones’ Instagram page is still active but her mother Karen Ellis, 48, claimed she was no longer involved in the dog trade.
She said: “She's not dog breeding at the moment – she's not in the right mind.
"She wasn't fully breeding anyway but I don't want to discuss it.
"It was all a joke and she got caught in the middle and someone took advantage of her."
Jones declined to comment.
It comes after one scamming victim purchased a purebred husky worth £1,200, but grew up to be something else entirely.
The Sun Online also reported on a shameful ruse involving fake posts about lost or injured pets circulated on Facebook.
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