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Buyer Beware! Why you should never buy a puppy online

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According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), most pet store puppies come from puppy mills, where dogs are housed in cramped, filthy conditions without sufficient veterinary care, food, water, exercise, and socialization. Furthermore, the breeding dogs at puppy mills—the moms and dads—are bred as often as possible without rest between litters, to increase profits.

Luckily, many animal lovers are becoming aware that purchasing a dog—or any animal—from a pet store is a big no-no.

Unfortunately, a growing trend among commercial puppy breeders is to cut out the pet shop—the middleman—and use online retailing to get their puppies directly into your home. Thus, many puppies sold online come from puppy mills.

If you’re ready to get a dog, congratulations, but don't be fooled!

Consumers trying to find dogs from responsible breeders or breed rescue groups often turn to the Web for advice. Scattered among the websites of responsible breeders and rescue groups, Internet puppy mill scammers attract potential buyers with endearing pictures and phony promises. It's easy to find yourself overwhelmed with choices.

Internet scams abound, including everything from fake "free to good home ads" where the buyer is asked to pay for shipping, only to never see that puppy they tried to help, to breeders posing as sanctuaries or rescues, but charging upwards of $1,000 in "adoption fees.”

The only way you can be sure that a puppy came from a reputable source is to see where he or she came from for yourself.

Responsible breeders would never sell to someone they haven't met “because” they want to screen potential buyers to ensure the puppies are going to good homes.

If you buy a puppy over the Internet, not only are you risking supporting puppy mill cruelty, you're also risking being scammed out of your money. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, hundreds of complaints are filed every year from victims who were scammed when buying a dog online. The puppy you receive may not be the puppy you agreed to buy, and you may not even receive a puppy at all!

How can you avoid being scammed?

The best way to avoid being scammed is to simply never buy a dog you haven't met in person. While the Internet can be a valuable tool for finding a responsible breeder or breed rescue group, be sure to follow these tips when using the Internet to find a pup:

  • Always visit. Responsible breeders and rescue groups will be more than happy to offer you a tour.
  • Always pick your puppy up at the kennel. Do not have the puppy shipped or meet at a random location.
  • Always check references, including others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the veterinarian the breeder works with.
  • Be sure to deal directly with a breeder, not a broker.
  • Never send Western Union or money order payments.

If you are told that there are no refunds for a sick puppy, you're most likely dealing with a puppy mill. A reputable breeder or rescue group will always take the puppy back, regardless of the reason.

If you feel you have been a victim of a puppy scam, please contact “Internet Crime Complaint Center” and or the Better Business Bureau. Also, consider helping others avoid being cheated by sharing your story on ASPCA.org. To let them know what happened, email dogstory@aspca.org.

Adoption is the best option!

You’ll add a loving member to your family and enrich your life. The best place to find a dog or puppy is your local animal shelter or breed rescue group.Adoption is still the best option, even if you have your heart set on a purebred dog. There are thousands of dogs waiting for good homes at local animal shelters, including purebreds. There are also many reputable breed rescue groups passionate about finding great homes for purebred dogs that have been abandoned, abused, or surrendered to shelters.

The reality is that an estimated 3.7 million unwanted pets must be euthanized at animal shelters every year -- many because they could not find families to adopt them. When you adopt from a shelter or rescue group, you’ll be giving a dog a second chance at life and at finding a home.

Adopt don't shop!

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