BBB says ‘buyer beware’ if you want to buy a dog on the Internet

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Puppy Mill Bill Looking To Improve Breeding Conditions

Don’t get bitten when buying a puppy or any other pet on the internet by first doing your research.

Better Business Bureau serving Connecticut says aside from reputable breeders, there is widespread fraud involving the sale of purebred puppies and pets for adoption.

Consumers complain they have lost hundreds and even thousands of dollars by purchasing purebred puppies from deceptive and unethical breeders online.

“We love our pets, we get excited about them and our emotions often play into these scams,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau’s Executive Communications Director, Howard Schwartz.  “Con artists know this and they try to lure clients with various offers, such as a pedigree pup for half of the common market price.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says many puppies sold through these sorts of websites come from “puppy mills,” which are commercial breeding operations that place profits above the health of the dogs.  The word most often used to describe the treatment of the dogs and conditions at puppy mills is “inhumane.”

Using slick websites, the scammers lift photographs and descriptions of dogs from other websites.

Typically, the rogue websites offer a purebred puppy for a price that is unusually lower than their legitimate market value.  Victims are then asked to pay extra fees for shipping, paperwork, veterinary visits, vaccinations, special shipping crates and unnecessary insurance.  Unfortunately, there is also heartbreak when the buyer goes to the airport to pick up their puppy and the dog never arrives.

BBB warns consumers that purchasing a puppy from a classified website also presents serious problems.  The seller will ask for money to be sent in advance by wire transfer or other unsecured method.  Many of these ads are placed by criminals in other countries.  The other issue involving classified ads is that there are operators who steal people’s pets from their property, parks or streets, and re-sell them through classified ads to unsuspecting buyers.

Better Business Bureau has some tips for consumers looking to purchase a new family member:

Consider buying locally – Unless you can visit the breeding facility before the purchase and bring home your puppy personally, avoid buying a puppy from out of state. 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 and whether or not the puppy exists at all.

Don’t be swayed by a fancy website – Remember that a flashy website does not mean it is run by a trustworthy seller.  Some of the scam operators’ websites may disappear and start up again on a different site under a different name.

Make sure the price makes sense – Check the common price of a given breed.  If the asking price is unusually low, that’s a red flag.

Research the seller and obtain references – Visit bbb.org to check the reputation of an online seller, breeder or distributor.  Ask the breeder for references and contact people who have bought puppies in the past. Try to talk to people who have had their dog for a while in order to check for issues that may not be immediately apparent, such as genetic problems.

Ask for medical records and pedigree – Get a written account of all medical care your puppy has received, including vaccinations and antibiotics. Take the records to your vet during the first examination, which should be within a few days of bringing your puppy home.

If purchasing a pedigreed pet, be sure the breeder provides documentation of the parents’ registration with the appropriate kennel club. This ensures that the pet is in fact a legitimate pure-bred animal. It is then your responsibility to register your pet with the appropriate kennel club.

Remember that paperwork from a dishonest seller may not be legitimate.  Take your time, do your research and consider taking home a rescue pet from a local shelter.