Use caution when giving puppies as gifts this holiday season

Mechele Agbayani Mills

Pets are popular gifts around the holidays, but giving a pet as a present can be stressful for both you and the new pet, particularly if you’re not careful. The Better Business Bureau has received more than 450 complaints against dog breeders in the past 12 months. Complaints ranged from health issues to non-existent puppies. The BBB is advising consumers to think twice before investing in and giving a puppy as a present this holiday season.

A puppy can be a fantastic holiday gift, but only if you make sure it’s the right gift at the right time from someone you can trust.

The BBB provides advice for those thinking about purchasing a fur baby this holiday season.

-- Do your homework. Because of the emotional investment in buying a puppy, scammers are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Take the time to look at the business’ track record by examining its BBB Business Review at Also, make sure the recipient wants a puppy.

-- Watch out for puppy mills. Unless you can visit the breeding facility before the purchase and bring your puppy home personally, use extreme caution when looking for puppies online. When a puppy is being 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.

-- Ask to see the parents. Before bringing a puppy home, ask to see his or her parents and the living area where he or she was born and raised. Honest breeders will be happy to show you around. If the seller refuses or makes excuses, walk away.

-- Watch out for fake websites and fake pictures. Unscrupulous scammers will often create a professional-looking but fraudulent website designed to lure the potential buyer in with cute puppy pictures.

-- Consider adoption. There are many reasons to consider pet adoption. Pets are typically healthy and up to date on vaccinations. 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 also may be saving an animal’s life.

-- Be aware of payment concerns. Be cautious of businesses that require payment through wire transfer and prepaid debit card only. Wire transactions are almost impossible to reverse or trace and are widely used by scammers.

-- Know the law. In June 2011, the Texas State Legislature passed The Commercial Dog and Cat Breeders Act. It requires breeders who maintain 11 or more female breeding animals and sell 20 or more animals per year to obtain a license from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and to submit to state inspections once every 18 months.

-- Read contracts thoroughly. If the seller offers a health guarantee, make sure it is in writing and read it carefully for limits and proof requirements. Guarantees should cover more than a few weeks or days, since it can take weeks for symptoms to appear in illnesses like parvo and distemper. Genetic issues might not become apparent for years.

Visit for additional tips and information about purchasing a puppy. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373, or use BBB Scam Tracker.


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