BBB: Pause before giving a Christmas gift with four paws

11/10/2012 7:04 AM

11/10/2012 7:07 AM

Putting a cuddly puppy beneath the Christmas tree this year might be a tempting idea. After all, who doesn’t love puppies? Wouldn’t that be a charming surprise for the kids or for Granny?

The Better Business Bureau hates to seem Grinch-like but advises against that puppy present.

Many animal experts recommend against introducing a new pet during the holidays. That’s especially true of young pets like puppies. It can compound the stress of the holidays for your family and it can be a nerve-wracking thing for the animal as well. One better option: give a “gift voucher” for the dog and pick out the puppy of your choice after the holiday is over.

If you have thoroughly contemplated your plan to give a puppy, the BBB and the American Kennel Club offer these tips:

• Watch for puppy scammers. Scammers are always drawn to situations in which they think they can take advantage of your emotions. Certainly, picking out a puppy can be a time when your emotions are heightened. Ask for referrals when choosing a breeder, rescue group or shelter. Those quick parking lot transactions where someone has plopped a “puppies for sale” sign, along with a squirmy litter of fuzzy little cuties, can lead to heartbreak.

• Check the breeder’s credentials. Don’t buy a puppy from a website without first speaking to the breeder and checking references. Ask if they are members of an American Kennel Club-affiliated club and then contact the club to verify their membership.

• Do not support puppy mills. When you have a puppy shipped from another area, and especially from another state, you don’t know how the puppy was treated, how healthy it is, its age or even whether the puppy exists at all. States have varying laws regulating breeders. Some have practically no laws. Federal law does not regulate Internet sales of puppies. To check on the puppy mill laws state-by-state, visit the Humane Society’s website at www.humanesociety.org.

• Don’t be fooled by well-designed websites. Scammers often create websites with a professional look to lure in their victims. They know how irresistible those cute puppy pictures can be.

• If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Puppy scammers will offer to “re-home” their purebred puppy in exchange for transportation or vaccination fees. They will then continue to ask for more money for unexpected and fraudulent costs.

• Consider adopting from a shelter. There are great dogs in shelters, and they are in need of homes. Mixed-breed dogs are often healthier than potentially inbred purebreds. If your heart is set on a purebred, shelters have those too. Experts will tell you that getting a dog when it’s a puppy so that you can raise it right is no guarantee of how it will turn out.

When it comes to gift giving this holiday season, consider simply giving your loved one the accessories that a puppy will require – a dog bed, feeding dish, a leash and collar, along with a voucher for the puppy of their choice to be used after the holidays.

Holiday stress and new puppies are not a joyful combination.

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