Why You Should Never Buy a Puppy Online

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 homes. These puppies, bred in facilities commonly known as puppy mills, are housed in cramped, filthy conditions without sufficient veterinary care, food, water or socialization. Purchasing a puppy online typically supports this cruel industry.

Buyer Beware

Consumers trying to find dogs from responsible breeders or breed rescue groups may find themselves bombarded with elaborate websites offering the offspring of "champions" with a host of fancy terms and pictures of adorable pups.

Don't be fooled: Internet puppy scammers attract potential buyers with cute photos and phony promises. 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, or you may not receive a puppy at all. Internet scams range 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.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

The best way to avoid being scammed is to adopt, not shop! But should you decide to purchase a pet, never buy one you haven't met in person. Please make 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.
  • Pick your puppy up at the kennel, rather than having the puppy shipped or meeting the seller at a random location.
  • Check references, including others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the veterinarian the breeder works with.
  • Deal directly with a breeder, not a broker.
  • Never send Western Union or money order payments.

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

Please keep in mind that pet adoption is still your best option, even if you are seeking a purebred dog. There are thousands of dogs waiting for good homes at local animal shelters, including purebreds! There are also a number of reputable breed rescue groups passionate about finding great homes for purebred dogs who have been abandoned, abused or surrendered to shelters.

How to Report a Puppy Scam

If you feel you have been a victim of a puppy scam, please contact the following organizations: