To start with, I would highly advise NOT to buy a dog or puppy from an online seller, scammers are rampant online and if you don’t wound up dealing with a scammer, you will most likely wound up dealing with a puppy miller. But if you have chosen to buy a new puppy or dog from an online seller take precautions that you aren’t being scammed and that you are purchasing from a reputable breeder.
Safety Tips for Buying a Dog Online – Please note that these tips are not all inclusive, rather they are factors to help you identify high-risk transactions. Likewise, there is no guarantee that if a seller does not meet any of these criteria, it’s a legitimate seller. If you are suspicious, it’s a good idea to do some research. It is very important to remember that if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
Step 1: Educate yourself.
How to identify a good dog breeder – Tips from the Humane Society of the United States
Look for a breeder who at a minimum:
- Has confirmed his/her identity and is ID Verified. Look for this seal:
- Keeps her dogs in the home and as part of the family–not outside in kennel runs.
- Has dogs who appear happy and healthy, are excited to meet new people, and don’t shy away from visitors.
- Shows you where the dogs spend most of their time–an area that is clean and well maintained.
- Encourages you to spend time with the puppy’s parents–at a minimum, the pup’s mother–when you visit.
- Breeds only one or two types of dogs, and is knowledgeable about what is called “breed standards” (the desired characteristics of the breed in areas such as size, proportion, coat, color and temperament).
- Has a strong relationship with a local veterinarian and shows you the records of veterinary visits for the puppies. Explains the puppies’ medical history and what vaccinations your new puppy will need.
- Is well versed in the potential genetic problems inherent in the breed–there are specific genetic concerns for every breed–and explains to you what those concerns are. The breeder should have had the puppy’s parents tested (and should have the results from the parents’ parents) to ensure they are free of those defects, and she should be able to provide you with the documentation for all testing she has done through organizations such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals(OFA).
- Gives you guidance on caring and training for your puppy and is available for your assistance after you take your puppy home.
- Provides references of other families who have purchased puppies from her.
- Feeds high quality “premium” brand food.
- Doesn’t always have puppies available but rather will keep a list of interested people for the next available litter.
- Actively competes with her dogs in conformation trials (which judge how closely dogs match their “breed standard”), obedience trials (which judge how well dogs perform specific sets of tasks on command), or tracking and agility trials. Good breeders will also work with local, state, and national clubs that specialize in their specific breeds.
- Encourages multiple visits and wants your entire family to meet the puppy before you take your puppy home.
- Provides you with a written contract and health guarantee and allows plenty of time for you to read it thoroughly. The breeder should not require that you use a specific veterinarian.
In addition to the above criteria, you’ll want a breeder who requires some things of you, too. A reputable breeder doesn’t just sell her puppies to the first interested buyer!
The breeder should require you to:
- Explain why you want a dog.
- Tell her who in the family will be responsible for the pup’s daily care, who will attend training classes, where the dog will spend most of her time, and what “rules” have been decided upon for the puppy–for example, will the dog be allowed on furniture?
- Provide a veterinary reference if you already have pets or, if you don’t have other pets, she should ask which practices you are considering for your new puppy.
- Provide proof from your landlord or condominium board (if you rent or live in a condominium complex) that you are allowed to have companion animals.
- Sign a contract that you will spay or neuter the dog unless you will be actively involved in showing him or her (which applies to show-quality dogs only).
- Sign a contract stating that you will return the dog to the breeder should you be unable to keep the dog at any point in the dog’s life.
Step 2: Protect yourself when buying online.
Common Internet Scams Warning Signs
Buyers who claim to be traveling abroad and offer to have their “agent”, “business associate”, “friend”, or “shipper” complete the transaction. They may offer to pay by Cashiers Check for over the amount. This ‘buyer’ will claim to be trusting you to return the overage of funds. Banks will often cash these checks then hold you accountable for the funds once the check fails to clear.
Sellers who insist that you use Western Union or other money transfer services.
Sellers who reside in distant countries. Sellers that request money to be wired to Romania, Ukraine, Macedonia, Belarus, Pakistan, Russia, Lithuania, Egypt, Lagos, Nigeria, Colombia, Malaysia, Indonesia or Cameroon tend to have a very high incidence of fraud. Unless you have a lot experience with international orders, you may want to decline to send money to these countries.
Sellers offering a Dog significantly below market value. This is often a scam to engage many people to send money for this non-existent dog. You will never receive the dog.
Sellers who request that a “shipper” be paid directly or sellers that state the Dog will be delivered directly to your door or destination. All dogs shipped via an airplane must be picked up at the airport.
Sellers who state that you must send additional funds to get the Dog through customs.
Seller insists that you use an online escrow service other than Escrow.com. Before using any escrow service verify the company with the Better Business Bureau to insure the business has a satisfactory record.
The common internet scams and warning signs is a great resource for educating yourself on typical internet scams. The scams are used on internet sites across the world and are easily identified if you educate yourself.
Request Personalized Photos: Require the seller to send additional pictures of the dog you are interested in. Require a specific item to be in the photo. Make sure this item is something you request (not the seller suggest) such as your name on a piece of paper, or anything creative you can think of to ensure the puppy exists. If the seller refuses to send additional pictures or state their camera is broken, or they do not have a digital camera, or are unable to for some reason to send the photos, then report the seller discontinue communication.
Do NOT trust a seller whom:
1. Uses any techniques as noted in the Common Internet Scams and Warning Signs listed above.
2. States they are from Africa, Lagos, Nigeria, Cameroon or London.
3. Insists you use Western Union or other money transfer services. This type of payment offers ZERO protection.
4. Speaks of missionary work or AIDS relief work to build trust.
5. Cannot provide additional ‘personalized’ photos.
Step 3: Initiate communication with the seller
Contact the seller via email or phone. Only use email as the initial form of contact. Do NOT use email as the only means of communication. Speak to the seller on the phone more than once. All good reputable breeders will want to talk to you over the phone numerous times. If the seller refuses to give you a phone number or states the phone number is out of service or requests to only use email these are definite warning signs! Don’t ingore them!
Step 4: Interview the seller
The seller should interview you as outlined in step 1 above (over the phone). You should interview the seller with questions regarding their breeding practices as outlined in step 1 above (over the phone).
1. Request copies of any included documents such as registration paperwork to be faxed or mailed to you prior to purchasing the dog. Request to send these documents COD to bear no additional cost to the seller.
2. Make sure all items that will be included in the sale be listed within the contract. The contract should state the breed of dog you are purchasing, the birth date, an addendum with a photo of the dog, registration paperwork if available, written health guarantee, return/reimbursement agreement, shipping or pick-up information, any essential dog supplies, etc. You may request to have the contract notarized. All reputable breeders will make you sign within the contract stating you will return the dog to the breeder should you be unable to keep the dog at any point in the dog’s life. Additionally, reputable breeders will require you to sign within the contract stating you will spay or neuter the dog unless you will be actively involved in showing him or her (which applies to show-quality dogs only).
Request all promises or arrangements to be in writing, signed and dated. A clearly defined, well-written, signed contract will protect both the buyer and the seller.
Step 5: Purchase safely
The most secure method to purchase online is through a breeder escrow service powered by Escrow.com or request to complete the purchase through www.paypal.com.
**Never send Western Union or Money Gram when buying online as there is no way to protect your money if a problem should arise. Most scammers use Western Union to steal hundreds and even thousands of dollars from innocent people just trying to find that perfect dog to bring home to their family.
Take the time to read the following articles for additional information. Remember that a puppy or dog is for life and that also includes any problems they have that come with them.
- The Internet + Puppies = Problems
- The Internet – The Latest Puppy Mill Outlet
- Warning – Internet Scams Target Dog & Puppy Lovers, Breeders
- The Horrors of Puppy Mills