July 28, 2015
I know we all hear about credit card fraud, identity theft, and internet scams, but it is still shocking when it happens to you.
There are many ways to obtain a new pet. My guess is most of them come to us as strays or we go in search to rescue a pet from a local animal shelter or humane group. Some are given to us as a gift (a little risky), some purchased on impulse from a pet store window, others found in a newspaper ad or off Craig’s List. Those looking for a particular breed of dog or cat, bird or reptile may research the breed, interview breeders and go on waiting lists as they wait patiently for the “right” one. In the age of the Internet you have an opportunity to connect with breeders all over the country, potentially finding some truly exquisite animals that are not available locally.
I have many clients who have found wonderful dogs this way. With the ability to review photos and see videos of their choice, they can even watch their puppy “grow up” from birth. This requires interaction with the breeder, signed contracts, deposits and yes, some faith. Until you physically have the puppy in your arms there is still a possibility of disappointment even with extensive communication on both sides. Perhaps your beautiful new puppy is already larger than an adult should be for that breed. Maybe his eyes run or her knee dislocates. Now you have the extra expense of fixing it. Things that a breeder may accept or not have noticed may bother you. But if this is not the puppy of your dreams or there are truly serious health issues you must consider how you will return the dog to the breeder. This should be considered and written out between both parties in advance, as returns across country are not simple. Most reputable breeders accept returns, even full refunds (read your contract carefully first) but most also require that you return the pet on your own dime. Average flights for dogs run over $100, a lot of dimes. Just for the opportunity to meet a dog you might not have accepted in the first place. And ALL puppies are cute! Needless to say, very few are returned, however unhappy the first meeting may be. By and large I have observed that most pet owners accept a few flaws and enjoy years of companionship with their internet-found pets.
But the Internet has allowed all manner of people to put up pets for sale. Reputable show breeders who carefully breed for the finest qualities in their dogs; backyard breeders who have purebred dogs which they’ve bred for fun (doesn’t mean they aren’t pretty or loveable!); the “Puppy Mills” which churn out “pedigreed” dogs in large batches, with a minimum of care towards congenital defects and sometimes minimal care, period; and….some that offer puppies for sale when they have none – a total scam!
We recently went online, searching for a specific breed in the Bay Area. We wanted to stay local enough to go check out the puppy but broaden our search as there was very little choice locally. This seemed like a good idea. Immediately a website popped up, advertising for a multitude of breeders from various cities around the Bay. All had pictures of puppies for sale, some referred you to personal websites where you could view their kennel. Prices seemed good. Hmm, maybe too good. But they had testimonials! And before they would talk with you, you needed to answer several questions about yourself, asking if you could provide a “forever home” and promised to care for this puppy with all your heart and did you have a veterinarian? Initial contact was easy and if you like instant gratification, wow! They could have the puppy on your doorstep within 10 hours. From Delaware. Or Texas. But wait, didn’t it say Bay Area? Yes, but they had to go care for their ill father and took the puppy with them (the ad was placed 2 hours earlier). To make a long story short, be wary of a quick deal. Question a price too good to be true. If the puppy is no longer in the city or state listed when the ad was placed, walk away. Ask to see a current photo with an object in it, like your first name on a card. Their camera is broken? Move on. If at all possible meet the puppy first. If you are considering a purchase in the thousands of dollars (not me), the price of an airline ticket to meet your puppy in person may be reasonable. Even a meeting in a public supermarket parking lot will give you a chance to fully look your pup over before making the decision to open your heart and home to a new family member.
Christine B. McFadden, DVM
Valley Animal Hospital, Merced