Bringing a new puppy into the home can be fun and rewarding, but without proper research and consideration, the process can be frustrating, expensive and heartbreaking. With the recent local incidents of pet breeders and sellers exercising questionable business practices, BBB reminds consumers that researching sellers and shelters beforehand can save heartache and medical bills down the road.

“If you are looking for a pet to add to your family, be on the lookout for dishonest sellers,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “By taking your time and conducting a little research, you can greatly improve your chances of finding a healthy pet from a legitimate provider.”

The BBB International Investigations Initiative conducted an extensive study of online puppy scams. The study looks at the scope of this problem, who is behind it, and the need for law enforcement consumer education to address the issue. Download a PDF of the study.

If your family is planning on bringing a new furry family member into the home, consider the following:

  • Choose Local. Resist purchasing/adopting unless you can visit the shelter, owner or breeder before you pay, avoid buying or adopting a puppy other pet from out of state. When you have a pet shipped from another area, you don’t know really how healthy or young it is, or if the pet exists at all.
  • Verify information. Remember that paperwork from a dishonest seller may not be legitimate. Report a suspected pet hoax to BBB Scam Tracker and look for clues by searching similar scams. Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site. Take your time, do your research and consider taking home a rescue pet from a local shelter.
  • Ask for medical records and pedigree. Get a written account of all medical care your puppy has received, including vaccinations and antibiotics. Take the records to your vet during the first examination, which should be within a few days of bringing your puppy home. Check with an authority on dog breeds, like the American Kennel Club, who can provide breeder search tips, questions to ask and other information.
  • Don’t be swayed by a fancy website. A flashy website is not an indication of ethics or integrity. Fraudulent websites appear and disappear like a game of cat and mouse. Use a Google reverse image search to see if the same pets are advertised on other web addresses.
  • Make sure the price makes sense. Check several sources to find the average price of a given breed. If it sounds too good to be true, there’s a good chance that it is.
  • Watch for Scammer Grammar. Beware of emails with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors. Many pet scams come from overseas and scammers often do not have a firm grasp on the English language.

For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call 903-581-5704 or use BBB Scam Tracker.