Online Puppy Sales

We all love the Internet. It’s a well of information, entertainment and shopping paradises. And yes, you can learn a lot about dogs and pet care online—and those puppy photos are adorable. But Internet shopping is for shoes, not pets. When it comes to dogs, buyer beware: Those irresistible images of the perfect puppy—in the perfect house, with the perfect lawn—may have been snatched from another website, or taken at a nearby park rather than at the breeder’s premises.

Are Online Sellers Regulated?

Animal lovers are becoming savvy to misleading advertising from pet stores. Many understand that responsible breeders don’t sell puppies to pet stores, so stores rely on cruel breeders to fill their displays. That's why California and Maryland, along with hundreds of cities across the U.S. (and Canada!) have banned the sale of puppies in pet stores.

But online commerce is harder to control. The federal government—specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—is supposed to regulate online pet sellers through the Retail Pet Store Rule, but by its own account, USDA has licensed only a handful of the thousands of breeders that sell dogs online, leaving a field wide open for abuse.   

Don’t Be Fooled!

How can you tell if the seller you’re chatting with online is the real deal or a puppy mill? Most likely, you can’t. You also can’t always know if a puppy you see online even exists, or if his parents live in a tiny, filthy cage in the backyard.

In fact, there are thousands of reports of consumers who lost thousands of dollars and never got their puppy, or received a sick puppy, or a different puppy from the one they “ordered.” Sometimes people do get an adorable, healthy puppy, but by buying him online, they may still have unwittingly supported a cruel breeder who keeps that puppy’s parents languishing in horrid conditions. Sadly, these scenarios are common and have happened to many unsuspecting people.

There is no doubt that some responsible, caring dog breeders use the Internet to show off their dogs, educate the public about their breed and communicate with potential buyers. However, the web is riddled with shady sites employing increasingly sophisticated marketing tactics to sell puppies to anyone with a credit card or a Venmo account. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

In the end, the best way to avoid finding yourself a victim of an online puppy scam and inadvertently supporting cruel breeding is to not buy a puppy online.

Sources available upon request; contact [email protected] with specific questions about this content.