How to Avoid Falling for Pet Purchasing Scams During the Holidays

CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urges consumers to be careful not to fall for an unscrupulous offer when looking for a pet that best fits their family or situation.

Pets appeal to people of all ages and there is no shortage in the number of pets that need a home.

“Pets bring an immense amount of joy to people,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “It’s important to make sure the newest member of a family comes from a reputable shelter or breeder.”

Unfortunately, representations of animals bought via the Internet or in stores can mislead consumers as to the true nature of the pet’s health. Pictures can be falsified and animals that appear healthy can become ill shortly after purchase.

Consumers can follow these tips to ensure an issue-free purchase:

  • Consider a gift certificate to a local animal shelter or a promise to adopt. Doing so will ease the stress of a rushed decision and allow everyone to participate in making the selection.
  • Never purchase a pet without seeing it, especially from someone requesting an “adoption fee” or “shipping fee” via money order or wire transfer.
  • When purchasing a pet from a breeder, research the breeder and visit in person and at their operation. Ask questions.
  • Get health records and verify the veterinarian’s relationship with the pet.
  • Secure proof of purchase with the breeder’s full contact information.
  • For pets purchased via transport, seek contact information for the veterinarian who provided documentation and vaccines. Also, verify the name and address of the transport company.
  • Be suspicious of ads that offer popular, expensive breeds for free. Scammers may pose as a shipping company or courier to charge extra “shipping” fees for the animal.
  • Require documentation for any registered or pedigreed pet, including its registration with the appropriate kennel club.

Consumers with questions regarding pet purchases can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online

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