Want a Puppy for the Holidays? BBB Advises Caution

December 05, 2013

Adding a puppy to your family over the holidays may sound appealing, but Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to think twice before giving or adopting a puppy this holiday season.

New pets require a lot of work and training when your stress level already is high. BBB also advises consumers to check breeders out carefully before buying or adopting a puppy 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 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.

Many experts counsel potential 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 needs and desires first. One alternative is to give a “pet voucher” that can be used to pick out a pet after the holidays.

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.
  • 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.
  • Avoid puppy mills. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.