BBB urges families to think carefully before buying a pet as a holiday gift

Press release from Better Business Bureau

One of the most popular holiday gifts for youngsters is a new member of the family, such as a dog, cat, bird or exotic animal, but is it a good idea to buy a pet without discussing it in advance and getting the entire family on board? BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia says probably not.

There is no question that kids’ faces light up when they get a new pet, however, some young children do not understand that they will have to be responsible for the pet too, and that means feeding and taking a dog out for a walk in the middle of winter.

When your family brings home a pet, it needs some peace and quiet, and the opportunity to get used to its new surroundings. This is often not possible around the hectic holidays, and all of the excitement can be stressful for the pet.

Other concerns involving the purchase of pets are fraud and unwittingly buying from a breeding facility known as a puppy mill. Puppy mills are operations where the breeders put profits ahead of the health of the animals, in conditions experts describe as “inhumane.” When you buy from a breeder outside of the state you are taking a big chance. If you don’t see the breeding facility, you won’t know what sort of conditions the pet was raised in.

BBB has heard from heartbroken consumers, who send their payment and wait for the delivery, but the pet never arrives, or the seller demands fees that were not disclosed when they made the purchase.

There are some wonderful local pet stores and breeders, however, you want to take a look around, make sure that the environment is clean, the animals are healthy and the staff is attentive. You can find a BBB-accredited pet shop at, as well as check out the marketplace reputation of prospective sellers.

BBB offers these tips to help you make the right decision for your family when buying a pet:

Select a pet that is age-appropriate – If it is impractical for other family members to help care for larger animals such as cats or dogs, consider buying a small pet such as a hamster, which is easier for children to take care of.

Check breeders’ and shelters’ credentials – If you locate a puppy through a website, do not send money without first speaking to the breeder, and checking references and credentials. Find out if the breeder is a member of an American Kennel Club-affiliated club and call to verify membership.

Avoid buying pets through classified ads – You can get some wonderful deals through classified ads, however, a pet seller may not have the proper paperwork. Some scammers make big money selling pets that they stole from people’s property or public areas.

Don’t be fooled by a well-designed website – This is always good advice. Unscrupulous operators create professional-looking but fraudulent websites that are designed to lure potential buyers with cute puppy pictures they stole from other breeders’ websites.

Take all of the costs into account – Many people don’t think past the initial fee required to buy or adopt a pet. A cat costs about $350 to $400/year and a small or medium dog costs about $400 to $500/year and larger dogs even more.   You also might want to consider buying medical insurance for your pet. Veterinary care can be very expensive when there’s a health problem or if your pet is injured in an accident.

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