In Y 2016, the USDA ruled that pet dealers selling animals online must have a federal license, because the prospective owners could not meet the animals in person to review their health condition.
However, if an online breeder offers to bring the animal to you in a neutral location, such as a parking lot, the licensing standard may not apply.
Further, according to the ASPCA, “USDA has licensed only a handful of the thousands of breeders that sell dogs online, leaving a field wide open for abuse.”
It’s not a good idea to meet up with a seller to purchase an animal offsite, as you’re unable to see the conditions the animal came from.
A reputable breeder will want to meet and interview anyone interested in buying a puppy. They will also be proud to show you the parents, their living environment and their medical records (including DNA results for heritable diseases).
I would insist on meeting the parents (the mother dog, at a minimum), and if the breeder won’t show you the living conditions in a separate building or part of the house, be suspicious.
In most cases, if you buy a puppy online or from a pet store, you are most likely supporting the puppy mill industry, because these are the Key ways that puppy millers sell millions of dogs each year.
A review of 7 studies and one anecdotal report, published in Y 2017, found that dogs born in puppy mills and sold directly to consumers via the Internet or retail pet stores had a greater incidence of behavioral and emotional problems that cause distress in adulthood, compared to dogs from other sources.
The puppy mill dogs sold over the Internet were not only more likely to display increased fear but also increased aggression, most commonly directed toward the owners or family members, along with strangers and other dogs. This is one more reason to avoid buying dogs online. However, there are some responsible breeders who also use the Internet to advertise their pups.
The Big Q: How can you tell the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy mill or irresponsible breeder?
The Big A: It can be quite difficult, which is why I strongly recommend using my 18-point breeder’s questionnaire as a starting point and always insisting on meeting the breeder, seeing the living environment and getting a full health background on the puppies and their parents.
There are some reputable breeders who have an online presence, but any outlet that is selling dogs in a virtual manner, without allowing you to meet the dog and see the facilities 1st, should set off a Red flag.
Another, even better option is to adopt your next puppy or dog from a local animal shelter or rescue organization. This is one area where you can use the Internet for a good purpose, as many rescue organizations and shelters post available dogs online. Often, you can submit an application and be approved for adoption ahead of time, so when you get to the facility you can focus on meeting the animals and finding your new family member should you choose one.
By Dr. Karen S. Becker
Paul Ebeling, Editor
Have a terrific weekend