Puppy love can quickly turn to heartbreak

In light of new Texas law, BBB reminds consumers to research breeders thoroughly

Do your research when buying a puppy.
Do your research when buying a puppy.

UPDATE: The Texas Attorney General just secured an agreement with a San Antonio-based puppy broker. Pet broker Justin Sullivan, who ran JustYourPup.com and other websites, has agreed to set up a limited restitution pool. Consumers who bought puppies from Sullivan or one of the other named businesses can apply to have their vet bills reimbursed from that pool. Read the AG’s press release on the agreement here.

As of Sept. 1, certain dog and cat breeders in Texas are required to submit to state inspections and obtain a license, thanks to a new state law. In light of the new regulations, Better Business Bureau advises you to thoroughly research dog breeders and brokers before purchasing a puppy.

BBB recommends you personally inspect the breeding and living areas of any puppy you’re looking to purchase, ask the breeder questions and meet the puppy’s parents before taking a puppy home. This advice applies whether you found the puppy online or through other sources.

Be especially wary of purchasing puppies online. In May, the United States Department of Agriculture proposed a new rule to regulate breeders who sell puppies online. However, that rule has yet to go into effect. Until it does, those breeders are not required to obtain a license or submit to USDA inspections. Animal rights groups say this loophole allows unscrupulous breeders to flourish by selling animals directly to consumers on the Internet.

Since Jan. 1, BBB received almost 300 complaints against dog breeders nationally. Complaints ranged from health issues to problems with paperwork regarding pure bred puppies.

Many of the complaints are heartbreaking, and involve very sick puppies who often end up dying. Two consumers shared their stories with BBB. One woman was forced to have her puppy euthanized after learning he had distemper. The other became an animal rights advocate after she bought a sick puppy from a broker.

Both said that, in hindsight, they recognized red flags when they first purchased the puppies. Both sellers had excuses for why the women couldn’t see the puppies’ parents. Both of the sellers also had multiple complaints against them for selling sick puppies.

For those looking to add a furry friend to their family, BBB offers the following advice:

  • Consider adoption. Local animal shelters have hundreds of dogs and cats in need of a loving home. If you’re set on getting a pure bred, look for animal rescue groups in your area that specialize in that breed.
  • Check with BBB. If you choose to go through a breeder, check his or her BBB Business Review.
  • 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.
  • Ask for references. Ask the breeder for contact information of people who have bought puppies in the past. Try to talk to people who have had their dog a while in order to check for issues that may not be immediately apparent, like genetic problems.
  • Avoid buying online. Unless you can visit the breeding facility before the purchase and bring your puppy home personally, do not purchase a puppy from a website. When you have a puppy shipped from another area, you don’t know how that puppy has been treated, how healthy or young it is, or whether or not the puppy exists at all.
  • 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.
  • Ask for medical records. Get a written account of all medical care your puppy has received, including vaccinations and antibiotics. Take this record to your vet during the first examination.
  • See a veterinarian immediately. Within a few days of bringing your puppy home, schedule a complete physical with your vet to make sure it is in good health.
  • Keep your puppy quarantined. If you already have pets, keep them separated from your new puppy until it is given a clean bill of health.

Read BBB’s complete investigation into dog and cat breeders.


  1. Great article. Frustrating how many people still want to shop and pet stores etc.

    1. Thank you very much for the compliment! The process of buying a pet should be taken very seriously with plenty of research done beforehand.

      ~ Erik

  2. Dr_howardhail says:

    You are misinforming the public greatly and catering to the animal rights cults. Very responsible and reputable breeders use the internet especially show breeders. Just selling a puppy over the internet is not a sign of a bad breeder. Also the public should be educated that they can give their new puppy diseases by not keeping it quarantined until it has had all of its shots. Parvo lives in the ground and on every surface in public parks. A puppy can be sent to a new home completely innoculated and free of disease and if the new owner does not take them to the vet for the final set of shots then they are responsible for the health of the puppy. Also all living things including you have according to geneticists 30 or more genetic defaualts as it is nature’s way of ensuring the survival of a species. Sickle cell anemia prevented people from dying of malaria long enough to raise the next generation. Purebred dogs are subject to fewer than 6-10 genetic problems and responsible breeders will replace them, but the shelter mixed bred dogs are subject to 229 possible genetic defects and no one promises to replaced them. When you publish slander and highly defamatory information that you get from the animal rights cults whose goal it is to end all use of animals you get of course misleading information at best. Go to the AKC for proper information not to an organization who has declared war on all use of animals for any purpose whatsoever.
    12 Things You Didn’t Know About The HSUS

    1. The Humane Society of the United States scams Americans out of millions of dollars through manipulative and deceptive advertising. An analysis of HSUS’s TV fundraising appeals that ran between January 2009 and September 2011 determined that more than 85 percent of the animals shown were cats and dogs. However, HSUS doesn’t run a single pet shelter and only gives 1 percent of the money it raises to pet shelters, and it has spent millions on anti-farming and anti-hunting political campaigns.

    2. HSUS receives poor charity-evaluation marks. CharityWatch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy) reissued HSUS’s “D” rating in December 2011, finding that HSUS spends as little as 49 percent of its budget on its programs. Additionally, the 2011 Animal People News Watchdog Report discovered that HSUS spends about 43 percent of its budget on overhead costs.

    3. Six Members of Congress have called for a federal investigation of HSUS. In April 2011, six Congressmen wrote the IRS Inspector General showing concerns over HSUS’s attempts to influence public policy, which they believe has “brought into question [HSUS’s] tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status.”  [Ed: Link to Legislators that Get It: http://www.keepouranimals.com/legislators-that-get-it.html

    4. HSUS regularly contributes more to its own pension plan than it does to pet shelters. An analysis of HSUS’s tax returns determined that HSUS funneled $16.3 million to its executive pension plan between 1998 and 2009—over $1 million more than HSUS gave to pet shelters during that period.

    5. The pet sheltering community believes HSUS misleads Americans. According to a nationally representative poll of 400 animal shelters, rescues, and animal control agencies, 71 percent agree that “HSUS misleads people into thinking it is associated with local animal shelters.” Additionally, 79 percent agree that HSUS is “a good source of confusion for a lot of our donors.”

    6. While it raises money with pictures of cats and dogs, HSUS has an anti-meat vegan agenda. Speaking to an animal rights conference in 2006, HSUS’s then vice president for farm animal issues stated that HSUS’s goal is to “get rid of the entire [animal agriculture] industry” and that “we don’t want any of these animals to be raised and killed.”

    7. Given the massive size of its budget, HSUS does relatively little hands-on care for animals. While HSUS claims it provides direct care to more animals than any other animal protection group in the US [Ed, not in their own facilities – there are none), most of the “care” HSUS provides is in the form of spay-neuter assistance.  In fact, local groups that operate on considerably slimmer budgets, such as the Houston SPCA, provide direct care to just as many or more animals than HSUS does.

    8. HSUS’s CEO has said that convicted dogfighting kingpin Michael Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.” Following Vick’s release from prison, HSUS has helped “rehabilitate” Michael Vick’s public image. Of course, a $50,000 “grant” from the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t hurt.

    9. HSUS’s senior management includes a former spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a criminal group designated as “terrorists” by the FBI. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle hired John “J.P.” Goodwin in 1997, the same year Goodwin described himself as “spokesperson for the ALF” while he fielded media calls in the wake of an ALF arson attack at a California meat processing plant. In 1997, when asked by reporters for a reaction to an ALF arson fire at a farmer’s feed co-op in Utah (which nearly killed a family sleeping on the premises), Goodwin replied, “We’re ecstatic.”

    10.  Americans are now requesting the FTC to investigate the misleading advertising of the HSUS.  Heart-wrenching and misleading ad campaigns imply to the public that this is a true “humane society” that houses strays and unwanted or abused pets, and needs “your” $19/mo to do so.  FACTS: Contrary to public, celebrity and legislator opinion, the HSUS is NOT a humane society.  They do not own or operate ONE pet shelter in the entire country; despite their misleading name, they are not a government arm that systematically trickles donations down to the local shelters that to all the actual work.  If they shelter NO PETS, how can they be considered the “experts” on pet care practices?  Their vegan agenda, now unspoken because it wasn’t bringing in donations, is for the eventual extinction of both domestic animals, and all animal use, via legislation.

    11.  At the request of over 6,000 grassroots voting letter-writers, representing all 50 States, the IRS is currently investigating the HSUS as to its under-reporting and over-lobbying activity as a 501©(3) organization.  Millions in back-taxes and penalties could be assessed if the IRS would conclude this 3-year old investigation.

    12. Congressmen are now urging the Justice Department to investigate HSUS non-compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as anyone that attempts to influence legislation via continued contact with Congress and/or staffers is required to register as a lobbyist.  HSUS has never done this.

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