How to Buy a Puppy Online Safely

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Adding a puppy to your family is exciting! Whether you’re adopting from a local shelter or rescue or looking at litters advertised online to buy a puppy, it’s important to be an educated and proactive consumer to make sure you are adopting or buying a puppy from a reputable source. Here’s how to buy a puppy online safely:

1. Make Sure You are Looking at Reputable Sources

There are a lot of ways for someone to advertise puppies online and connect with people who want to buy them. Not all sources are created equal and there are a lot of scams out there, so make sure you are looking at reputable sources when you are searching online.

“Commercial Breeder” Does Not Mean “Puppy Mill”

When you are looking to buy a puppy, it’s important to be realistic when you are looking at things online. There are a lot of people online who prefer to adopt dogs than buy them and there are many who prefer to purchase a puppy for their own reasons. There is nothing wrong with either of these options as long as you’re buying from reputable breeders and adopting from reputable rescues.

Due to the backlash against dog breeding in general, there is a lot of misinformation online that equates a “commercial breeder” with a “puppy mill”. Just because someone is a “commercial breeder” does not mean they are a puppy mill, selling sick dogs, or abusing animals. Are there horrible people out there who have identified themselves as a “commercial breeder”? Of course, but that does not mean anyone who calls themselves a “commercial breeder” is a puppy mill.

It’s important to know the difference and to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable breeder when you buy a puppy online. A reputable commercial breeder is a licensed breeder that often has better conditions for their dogs than most dog owners, rescues, or shelters. They will also have a way to contact them wherever their puppies are advertised, will be knowledgeable about the dogs they’re selling, and will encourage interested buyers to visit them in order to meet their dogs and puppies. Many of these breeders will also offer a health guarantee or extended health guarantee for their puppies.

Cross-Reference and Verify all Claims

You have a lot of information available to you online and powerful search engines at your disposal – use them to your advantage. Check out the information being provided to you and the claims being made.

Do they sound realistic and in-line with what you’ve seen? Even if they sound legitimate, make sure you’re cross-referencing the information you see and receive and that you are able to verify any claims being made. If a breeder claims to have vet records and registration certificates, ask to see them.

Know Your State’s Laws

It’s also important for you to be aware of your state’s laws regarding dog breeding and buying puppies. Thankfully, many states have introduced laws and regulations that protect the consumer and also help improve the lives of dogs.

For example, one that protects the consumer in Pennsylvania is the Puppy Lemon Law. This law guarantees the health of the puppy for 30 days and is a total health guarantee up to the price paid for the puppy. This law protects the consumer while also holding the breeder accountable for their breeding practices.

2. Talk to the Breeder

Anywhere a breeder’s puppies are advertised online should have their contact information. Make sure you contact them and spend some time talking to the breeder. Ask them questions about the dog breed you’re interested in. If they aren’t educated about the dog breed, it’s likely they’re not that educated about breeding in general. They should be able to answer basic questions, even if they’re not a commercial breeder.

3. Visit the Puppy In-Person

If it’s possible, make an appointment with the breeder to visit the puppy you’re interested in. The only way to know for sure what type of environment a puppy is raised in is to see it. This will also give you a chance to meet the breeder in-person, ask more questions, meet the parents, and, of course, meet the puppy you could be bringing home.

Don’t Buy From a Pet Store

Although it may be tempting to buy one of the adorable puppies in a pet store window, it’s important not to. Pet stores tend to get their puppies from “Puppy Dealers”, who often buy from puppy mills, or straight from the puppy mills. At a pet store, you have no idea where the puppy came from. There is often no information available in order for you to verify or research anything further.

This does not include pet stores that work with local shelters to get dogs adopted. In these cases, it will be clear that the dogs are from a rescue or shelter. You will be able to see from the information provided where the puppies have come from and you’ll be able to cross-check and verify it if you need to.

4. Be Aware of Online Puppy Scams

It’s important to be aware of online puppy scams because there are a lot out there. Thankfully, there are several that have been identified and there are a few red flags to watch out for. If you see any of these red flags, be aware that you might be dealing with an online puppy scam:

4 Common Signs of Online Puppy Scams

1. The Website is Fraudulent

Take a close look at the website and make sure it’s well-designed, the content is well-written, and it doesn’t seem “off” in any way. Check out any social media links listed to ensure they go to a real business. Many scams will try to use names related to bigger websites and will even sometimes try to copy their look and steal their content in order to look more reputable.

Many of these scam websites will also often connect to a separate delivery service website that is also fraudulent. Getting a puppy is exciting, but you do want to make sure you slow down, do your research, and listen to your instincts.

2. Questionable Payment Methods

Real people selling real puppies will not ask you to pay through a third-party money transfer service or wire transfer, like MoneyGram or Western Union, bitcoin, with prepaid cards or gift cards, or by sending money through your own bank’s app. Scammers may also ask you to send money internationally.

If the breeder claims to be located in the United States, there is no reason for them to ask for money to be sent to another country. If the breeder seems to be rushing you and pressing you for money or to “complete the sale”, this should also be a red flag for you. Reputable breeders want to make sure their dogs are going to good homes.

3. No Real Contact

Someone running an online puppy scam will avoid real contact with you. They will refuse in-person meetings and often won’t talk on the phone. If their only contact with you is by email or text, it should throw up a red flag and make you suspicious.

You should be able to contact the breeder, check their references, and check their credentials. If you can’t, you may be dealing with an online puppy scam.

4. The Deal is “Too Good to be True”

Online puppy scams are notorious for offering purebred puppies at steep discounts or offering them for free if you pay for shipping. Then, “shipping” happens from an unnamed source and requires additional money. Oftentimes, there is then another issue that requires more money. Finally, no dog arrives.

Make sure you do some research to get a general ballpark number of what you should expect to pay for the puppy you’re looking for. If the price or deal you’re being offered seems “too good to be true”, it might be a scam. This should raise a red flag for you and prompt you to do more research or just walk away.

Buying a puppy online safely is possible, but you’ll want to do a lot of research before you do and you’ll want to avoid a “click and ship” scenario. In many cases, the best way to buy a puppy online safely is to not buy it online. In the best cases, you will meet the breeder and meet the puppy you’re buying in person. So, even if the transaction is happening online, you’re still buying the puppy in-person or having them shipped to you through a reputable service after having met them in person.