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Purchasing a Pup as a Gift? Check Your List Twice

What could be more charming than surprising your family with a puppy under the Christmas tree?  Not so fast!  Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to think twice before investing in and giving a puppy as a present this holiday season.

With emotions high and priorities stretched, giving a puppy as a present during the holidays can be stressful for both you and the new pet.  Puppies are an exciting new addition to any family, but many animal experts recommend against introducing a new pet, especially a young one, into the family during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  If you have your heart set on surprising the family, give them a “gift voucher” for the dog and pick one out together after the holidays.

“In addition to any added stress, we also see an increase over the holidays in scammers who try to lure consumers to pay in advance for a pet that may not even exist,” warns BBB serving Central Virginia President and CEO Tom Gallagher.  One consumer has reported to us this week an attempted puppy scam by someone who claimed to be here in Richmond, Virginia and used the web address:  The consumer was asked to send half of the cost up front of the $610 for a puppy and airline shipping to receive the puppy within four or five hours.  A search by BBB staff revealed that the email account used in this instance was actually in Cameroon, Africa.

Regardless of when you buy or rescue your new dog, BBB and the American Kennel Club offer the following advice:

Don’t fall victim to a puppy scammer.  Because of the emotional investment in buying a puppy, scammers are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Make sure to ask around for a breeder, rescue group, or shelter referral.  Always check out the business’s BBB Business Review at

Never send money without first checking a breeder or shelter’s credentials.  If you locate a puppy through a website, do not send money without speaking to the breeder and checking references and credentials first.  Ask if the breeder is a member of an American Kennel Club-affiliated club and contact the club to verify membership.

Don’t support puppy mills.  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.

Don’t be fooled by a well-designed website.  Unscrupulous scammers will often create a professional-looking but fraudulent website designed to lure the potential buyer in with cute puppy pictures.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Beware of scammers who offer to “re-home” their purebred puppy in exchange for transportation or vaccination fees.  If a free purebred puppy sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Scammers will continually ask for more money for unexpected, and fraudulent, costs.



BBB serving Central Virginia serves Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Richmond and Tri-Cities, as well as 42 surrounding counties, from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business reviews, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, consumer and business education and charity review.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.

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