Pets are popular gifts, particularly around the holidays. With emotions high and priorities stretched, giving a pet as a present during the holidays can be stressful for both you and the new pet, even more so if you're not careful. Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to do their homework before investing in and giving a pet as a present this holiday season.

While purchasing a pet as a gift may seem like a good idea, make sure the recipient is ready to take on the responsibility. Remember, it's very important to shop smart and plan ahead to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

On Sept. 10, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a rule that is expected to affect up to 4,640 dog breeders, 325 cat breeders and 75 rabbit breeders nationwide. The rule requires operations with five or more breeding females to be licensed under the Animal Welfare Act.

If you are thinking about adding a pet to your family this holiday season, BBB offers the following advice:

Never send money without first checking a breeder or shelter's credentials. If you locate a pet 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. Take the time to look at the business' track record by examining their BBB Business Review at

Don't support puppy mills. There are thousands of commercial breeding facilities in the U.S. It is not advisable to purchase a pet unless you can physically pay a visit to the breeding facility before bringing your puppy home. When you have a puppy shipped from another area, you don't know how that puppy has been treated, the cleanliness of the facility, how healthy or young it is, or whether the puppy exists at all. If purchasing from a pet store, make sure they are purchasing from USDA licensed pet breeders as well.

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.

Consider adoption. There are many reasons to consider pet adoption. Pets are typically healthy, up to date on vaccinations, and many shelters spay or neuter the pets, making it even more affordable. Sadly, more than 3 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year, so by adopting you may also be saving an animal's life.

For more information about USDA-APHIS, call 970-494-7478. For more tips you can trust, visit To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373.




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