If you think a cute puppy would be an ideal holiday gift, Better Business Bureau advises prospective pet owners to consider waiting until a less hectic time of year. Pets, especially puppies, are a lot of work. Traveling during the holidays can make house training more difficult and hinder other established routines for pets. This can lead to frustration for the owner and other family members.
Pet ownership can be more complicated and expensive than some consumers realize, and prospective pet owners have to be extra cautious of unscrupulous puppy mills and scammers at this time of year.
BBB also reminds consumers be aware of the potential for fraud or poor service from companies that sell pets. BBB has issued warnings previously about online puppy scams. Recently, BBB issued an alert on a local dog breeder who failed to provide customers with promised paperwork needed to register their pets with the American Kennel Club.
Many experts counsel prospective 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 schedule and needs first. One alternative is to give a "pet voucher" that can be used to pick out a pet after the holidays.
Consumers also should carefully research the breeder, business, or organization that is selling the dog 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.
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 at bbb.org. Read the results of a BBB investigation of one puppy scammer to familiarize yourself further with puppy scam techniques.
* 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. You can also search for a business's BBB Business Review at bbb.org.
* Avoid puppy mills. Unless you can visit the breeding facility before 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 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 they have downloaded from other breeders' websites.
* 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.
Consumers can learn how to protect themselves or find BBB Business Reviews and charity reviews by calling (573) 803-3190 or by going online to www.bbb.org.