SINGAPORE: Bernard Ong was making his way to his pet grooming academy on Sunday morning for a day of teaching when he received a photograph of shih tzu puppies from a friend on his phone.
The screenshot of a Facebook post publicised the pups’ availability and had seemingly been posted by Ong.
As he scrolled through the link to the post, he spotted another image: certification bearing his credentials as a dog show judge with the Singapore Kennel Club (SKC), the national canine organisation.
“I was taken aback and overwhelmed with anger due to the potential consequences which could impact my professional credentials and businesses,” the 46-year-old told The Straits Times on Monday. He has since lodged a police report.
The Facebook post advertising the puppies’ availability had appeared on the Little Pets Singapore Facebook group on May 28. It read: “I have shih tzu puppies to rehom (sic), recently got a new job and won’t be able to cope with the babies and work. Pv me for more information on Messenger, thanks.”
It caught the eye of a cashier, who transferred S$500 as a deposit requested by the dogs’ seller.
Lina, 43, who declined to reveal her last name, said: “We agreed that I would pay half the adoption fee as a deposit and the remainder upon collecting the puppies.”
She said that during the transaction, she was sent a copy of the certificate bearing Ong’s show judge credentials.
It was only when the scammer began asking her for more money that her suspicions grew.
“The scammer then asked me to pay the remainder in order to purchase supplies for the animals, which I refused as I already had some of these supplies at home,” she said.
Lina said she has since lodged a police report and called her bank to request that her accounts be frozen. She also flagged the post in the Facebook group.
Ong said that after he learnt of the alleged scam and impersonation, he posted an alert on his personal Facebook account and also informed the SKC of the incident.
In his post, he asked friends to share it and not to trust the “imposter”. He added that “he has the same full name as me and he’s using my judging licence to scam people”.
He also said he had not shown shih tzus for “more than a decade and I don’t have any shih tzu as well”.
The SKC alerted its members and followers on its Facebook page on Sunday about the incident and also warned them not to post any official documents on social media to prevent misuse.
A dog groomer with around 25 years’ experience, Ong said he is worried about how this incident might affect his professional reputation as both a pet groomer and dog show judge.
“I’ve been a show judge for around a decade so my integrity will be in question, as we are not allowed to sell puppies. This definitely looks bad on me,” he said.
SKC president Chua Ming Kok told ST that this is the first time he has come across such a scam, where a show judge has been impersonated in order to sell puppies.
“It’s very concerning because the scammer’s actions have repercussions on both the club’s reputation and that of other Singapore judges,” said Chua, adding that he was not surprised that such a tactic had been used.
He said: “A normal shih tzu can be sold for around S$4,000 to S$5,000. If it is a dog with a supposed show pedigree, that figure can rise four times to around S$20,000.”
Ong said that only licensed pet shops are permitted to engage in such transactions and can be verified on the National Parks Board (NParks) website.
He added that the incident serves as an opportunity to remind potential pet owners that they should purchase pets from only legal sources such as licensed pet shops or reputable breeders.
Jessica Kwok, group director of the Animal and Veterinary Service, a cluster of NParks, said pet shop licensing conditions include prescribed standards on animal housing and management to safeguard animal health and welfare.
Ong said: “Reputable breeders often showcase their dogs in confirmation competitions, and their credentials can typically be found online. They also prioritise getting to know potential owners before selling their puppies, and it is common for there to be a wait list for their litters.”
A check by ST of Little Pets Singapore’s Facebook page, which has 3,300 followers, on Monday afternoon showed that the original post was still up. – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network