A puppy can be an exciting and memorable holiday gift, but there are many reasons to be cautious when buying a puppy around the holidays, Better Business Bureau warns.
Pet ownership can be more complicated and expensive than some consumers realize, and prospective pet owners have to be extra cautious of unscrupulous puppy mills and scammers at this time of year.
“When people think of buying a new puppy, they don’t always consider how time-consuming and stressful it can be,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “It can be difficult to give a new puppy the time and attention it needs when you’re busy with holiday plans.”
Many experts counsel prospective pet owners to avoid introducing a new pet, especially a young one, into the family during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Anyone whose heart is set on surprising a family with a dog should consider the family’s schedule and needs first. One alternative is to give a “pet voucher” that can be used to pick out a pet after the holidays.
Consumers also should carefully research the breeder, business, or organization that is selling the dog to avoid potential health problems or scams. Missouri is among the top states for so-called “puppy mills,” which often raise dogs in unsanitary and inhumane conditions. A 2010 BBB study of the puppy industry found that a fourth of the nation’s breeders were in Missouri, partly because of lax laws on licensing. A law aimed at tightening regulation of dog breeders was passed that year, but results have been mixed.
Regardless of when you get a dog, BBB and the American Kennel Club offer the following advice:
- Avoid puppy scammers. Scammers may make an emotional appeal to unsuspecting consumers, commonly through classified newspaper or online ads. A better way to find a good breeder is to ask friends for referrals or to look for a rescue group or animal shelter. Always check out the firm’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org. Read the results of a BBB investigation of one puppy scammer to familiarize yourself further with puppy scam techniques.
- Check a breeder or shelter’s credentials. If you locate a puppy through a website, do not send money without speaking to the breeder and checking references and credentials first. Ask if the breeder is a member of an American Kennel Club-affiliated club and contact the club to verify membership. You can also search for a business’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org.
- Avoid puppy mills. Unless you can visit the breeding facility before purchase and bring your puppy home personally, do not purchase a puppy from a website. When you have a puppy shipped from another area, you don’t know how that puppy has been treated, how healthy or young it is or whether the puppy exists at all.
- Don’t be fooled by a well-designed website. Unscrupulous scammers will often create a professional-looking but fraudulent website designed to lure the potential buyer in with cute puppy pictures they have downloaded from other breeders’ websites.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of scammers who offer to “re-home” their purebred puppy in exchange for transportation or vaccination fees. If a free purebred puppy sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Scammers will continually ask for more money for unexpected — and fraudulent — costs, and you may never receive the puppy.
Consumers can learn how to protect themselves or find BBB Business Reviews and charity reviews by calling (314) 645-3300 or by going online to www.bbb.org.