Puppy love can quickly turn to heartbreak

In light of new Texas law, BBB reminds consumers to research breeders thoroughly


UPDATE: The Texas Attorney General just secured an agreement with a San Antonio-based puppy broker. Pet broker Justin Sullivan, who ran JustYourPup.com and other websites, has agreed to set up a limited restitution pool. Consumers who bought puppies from Sullivan or one of the other named businesses can apply to have their vet bills reimbursed from that pool. Read the AG’s press release on the agreement here.

As of Sept. 1, certain dog and cat breeders in Texas are required to submit to state inspections and obtain a license, thanks to a new state law. In light of the new regulations, Better Business Bureau advises you to thoroughly research dog breeders and brokers before purchasing a puppy.

BBB recommends you personally inspect the breeding and living areas of any puppy you’re looking to purchase, ask the breeder questions and meet the puppy’s parents before taking a puppy home. This advice applies whether you found puppies Puppy love can quickly turn to heartbreakthe puppy online or through other sources.

Be especially wary of purchasing puppies online. In May, the United States Department of Agriculture proposed a new rule to regulate breeders who sell puppies online. However, that rule has yet to go into effect. Until it does, those breeders are not required to obtain a license or submit to USDA inspections. Animal rights groups say this loophole allows unscrupulous breeders to flourish by selling animals directly to consumers on the Internet.

Since Jan. 1, BBB received almost 300 complaints against dog breeders nationally. Complaints ranged from health issues to problems with paperwork regarding pure bred puppies.

Many of the complaints are heartbreaking, and involve very sick puppies who often end up dying. Two consumers shared their stories with BBB. One woman was forced to have her puppy euthanized after learning he had distemper. The other became an animal rights advocate after she bought a sick puppy from a broker.

Both said that, in hindsight, they recognized red flags when they first purchased the puppies. Both sellers had excuses for why the women couldn’t see the puppies’ parents. Both of the sellers also had multiple complaints against them for selling sick puppies.

For those looking to add a furry friend to their family, BBB offers the following advice:

  • Consider adoption. Local animal shelters have hundreds of dogs and cats in need of a loving home. If you’re set on getting a pure bred, look for animal rescue groups in your area that specialize in that breed.
  • Check with BBB. If you choose to go through a breeder, check his or her BBB Business Review.
  • Ask to see the parents. Before bringing a puppy home, ask to see his or her parents and the living area where he or she was born and raised. Honest breeders will be happy to show you around. If the seller refuses or makes excuses, walk away.
  • Ask for references. Ask the breeder for contact information of people who have bought puppies in the past. Try to talk to people who have had their dog a while in order to check for issues that may not be immediately apparent, like genetic problems.
  • Avoid buying online. Unless you can visit the breeding facility before the 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 or not the puppy exists at all.
  • Read contracts thoroughly. If the seller offers a health guarantee, make sure it is in writing and read it carefully for limits and proof requirements. Guarantees should cover more than a few weeks or days, since it can take weeks for symptoms to appear in illnesses like parvo and distemper. Genetic issues might not become apparent for years.
  • Ask for medical records. Get a written account of all medical care your puppy has received, including vaccinations and antibiotics. Take this record to your vet during the first examination.
  • See a veterinarian immediately. Within a few days of bringing your puppy home, schedule a complete physical with your vet to make sure it is in good health.
  • Keep your puppy quarantined. If you already have pets, keep them separated from your new puppy until it is given a clean bill of health.

Read BBB’s complete investigation into dog and cat breeders.

For more tips and information, visit Watch Your Buck, the local blog for BBB Serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin.

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About Amy Fowler

As an investigator for BBB, Amy reviews local businesses who have been accused of bad customer service, poor ethics or downright illegal behavior. When she finds examples of bad business practices that harm consumers, she reports them to the public. Sometimes those reports are simply added to a company’s BBB Business Review so consumers can make informed decisions. In more serious cases, she will write a press release for the BBB website, alert the local news media or write a post for watchyourbuck.com, the blog for BBB Serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. She started her career in customer service while earning a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. She moved on to work as a reporter and editor for several local newspapers before coming to BBB. She is passionate both about writing and giving people the information they need to make smart choices for themselves and their families — two passions that blend perfectly in her work at BBB.