According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, thousands of puppies in recent years were bought online by American families eager to find just the right pet for themselves or their kids.
A main advantage to searching online is the obvious ease and convenience of selecting from a far greater variety of puppy breeds, sizes, temperaments and "cuteness" quotient. Around the holidays, especially, getting a puppy for Christmas is everyone's childhood dream.
A typical search often starts with picture galleries of adorable puppies
- often accompanied by descriptions of behavioral habits and temperament ("great with kids!") - making prospective buyers feel confident they will be making the right decision. Then all they have to do was await delivery of their healthy and happy puppy.
Before you buy that puppy, however, there are a few hard facts to consider. In short, not all online puppy tales have a happy ending.
Puppy buyer beware
Although sellers will invariably ensure a bouncing, healthy puppy, upon arrival
puppies have been reported either sick, suffering from a chronic illness, or to have suffered injuries in transit.
In more outrageous cases, buyers waited weeks for delivery only to find that they
had become victims of fraud - being charged hundreds of dollars for a non-existent puppy that will never arrive.
While the Web may hold dangers for unsuspecting consumers, buying a puppy
online does not have to be fraught with misleading information.
Before you surf for your favorite mixed-breed or pedigree puppy, first check
out tips on securing just the right pup for you or your family, with helpful how-to's from the experts, plus general puppy buying advice at other top sites on the Web:
Contact - Does the seller have a phone number? Dial it now and see if
it's correct and in working order.
Verify - The names, phone numbers or e-mail addresses of people who
have bought puppies from the online seller. Contact other customers to ensure that they have had honest and helpful dealings with
the seller and their overall satisfaction with them
Search Online - Enter the seller's name in any of the popular search
engines to see if their name comes up on Web sites, forums, or message boards to find out if any complaints about the seller
have been posted.
BBB - Check with the Better Business Bureau in the seller's area
to see if any complaints have been filed.
Extra Steps - Set aside funds in an escrow account. Online, search for "escrow service" to set up an account, then release the funds only upon the arrival of a healthy, happy puppy.