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What are some ‘red flags’ when looking for a pet online?

The cardinal rule when using the internet to help you look for a new pet online is this: never buy an animal without meeting them in person.

Meeting your new pet before you bring them home is important for so many reasons: you can assess the health and behaviour of the animal, check they don’t come from a puppy farm and ensure you are the perfect match for them.

If you buy a pet over the internet without meeting them first, you could inadvertently be supporting puppy farms or poor breeding practices. Additionally you could fall victim to a scam, which could be financial and emotionally costly.

To help you screen through the thousands of ads posted daily, keep an eye out for some of these ‘red flags’ in ads which might indicate something amiss:

  • ‘Six-week-old puppy’ or ‘six-week-old kitten’: no trustworthy seller will rehome a puppy or kitten before 8 weeks of age. At this age, they won’t be fully weaned and will have poor immune systems. Transporting very young animals long distances is dangerous and can lead to dehydration and susceptibility to disease, and sellers that care about their animal’s welfare won’t offer this. Always wait until puppies and kittens are at least 8 weeks old before considering bringing them home.
  • ‘Delivery can be arranged’: no reputable breeder should be willing to part with their animals without meeting the new owners first. Good breeders will want to meet new owners and ask lots of questions to ensure their puppies or kittens are going to suitable homes; and likewise, you should want to meet the breeder and see the animal in person first, along with its mother and – if possible – father.
  • ‘Parents DNA tested’: on surface value, this looks like a positive move. But unless proof of DNA testing is provided, and the diseases tested for are known to be associated with that breed, it doesn’t mean much. Additionally breeders should be able to tell you what they plan to do about those test results (e.g. not breed from dogs that carry those diseases or conditions). Many breeds have specific health issues, so researching the breed you’re looking for thoroughly (including talking to a vet) will help you identify what type of test to look for.
  • Limited information: be concerned if the advertisement doesn’t tell you, for example, whether the animal is microchipped or not; whether it is desexed or not; and how it has been bred or sourced. Lack of information can indicate a dodgy seller who’s hoping you don’t notice the absence of important facts.

Check out The Smart Puppy Buyers Guide and The Smart Kitten Buyers Guide for more tips on bringing home a new pet.

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Updated on March 19, 2019
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