(WSVN) - A South Florida family went online to find a new puppy to train as a service animal, but instead of getting their new pet, they fell victim to dog deception. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s special assignment report.

Maria Savilla: “Get it girl! Woohoo!”

This 4-year-old Great Dane loves being the center of attention.

Maria Savilla’s dog Nala is more than a pet. She is also an emotional support dog.

Maria Savilla, dog owner: “She takes a lot of the anxiety away.”

In addition to suffering from anxiety, Maria also has lupus and neuropathy and is starting to have trouble walking.

She wants to get a second Great Dane puppy to train as a service dog. That dog would learn how to keep Maria steady as she walks.

Maria Savilla: “We were so excited about this adventure that we thought we were gonna go on until it all happened. I Googled Great Dane puppies, and then, all of the sudden, the site popped up.”

This is the site Maria found: MDPuppies.com.

When she saw this 9-week old puppy named Stanley, she emailed the business and spoke to someone named Emmanuel.

According to this contract, she paid $500 to have Stanley shipped from Maryland to Broward.

Maria Savilla: “They said, ‘Well, we can take the CashApp or Zelle,’ and we’re like, ‘OK everybody’s doing that.’ I didn’t think it was bad.”

Maria was asked to send the money not to Emmanuel, but a different person named Terrace Brashier. It did not sit well with her.

Maria Savilla: “We pay ’em. We go to bed. I had a gut feeling. I said, ‘I just wanna go online and Google it again,’ and all this stuff started coming up about the website, how it was a scam.”

Maria tried asking for her money back, but the phone number for the business was disconnected.

No one would respond to our messages, either.

The Better Business Bureau says more people are falling victim to pet fraud.

Cinthya Lavin, Better Business Bureau: “Since lockdown started in 2020, we are definitely seeing an increase of pet scams through our scam tracker and complaints that we receive from BBB.”

Nearly 4,000 claims of pet fraud were reported to the agency last year.

If you decide to buy a pet off a website, don’t rely on the pictures or video you see posted.

Cinthya Lavin: “Approximately 90% of the pet photos out there of puppies may not really be from the seller that’s claiming to have them. Anyone can go on social media and take a screen shot and go online and start posting these animals as if they were their own.”

We did a reverse search of pictures on the site.

Some of them linked back to a website that houses stock photos.

This is video Maria was sent of 9-week old Stanley.

The TV in the background shows the time and the date – Monday, Feb. 3, but the last time Feb. 3 fell on a Monday was in 2020, so it is very likely that the puppy Maria wanted wouldn’t even be a puppy anymore.

Maria Savilla: “Your heart just goes down to your stomach because you’re like, ‘How can these people do this?'”

Maria filed a report with the State Attorney General’s Office, but there is not much chance she will ever get her money back.

Maria Savilla: “Five hundred dollars is just not something to laugh about.”

Maria still wants another Great Dane, but for now, Nala will stay by her side helping Maria through the anxiety caused by a dog deception.

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