An Easy Guide to Safe and Ethical Puppy Shopping

An Easy Guide to Safe and Ethical Puppy Shopping

Whether you're picking out a puppy from a breeder's litter or adopting a pup from a shelter, it's not a simple process—no matter how well-intentioned your search is. Being aware of common scams can help, but it's also important to follow some simple guidelines to make sure that you don't get misled (or ripped off!)

Always Buy or Adopt in Person
Even if you have done extensive research online, make sure you exchange the money—and puppy—in person. Offer to fly out to the location if they’re not located near you. If the seller cannot accommodate this request, it is potentially a scam.

Check Their Spelling and Grammar
Sounds silly, but many puppy scams are conducted by people who do not live in the USA and, as such, the scammer may not speak English very well. The ad will often be riddled with spelling errors, odd sentence construction, or grammatical errors.

Ask Detailed Questions
Whether you suspect it’s a scam or not, make sure you ask plenty of relevant, detailed questions. For example, ask for medical documentation, images of the puppy from different angles or a video, the puppy’s exact age and information about its parents. If the seller cannot answer these questions or deflects, it is likely a scam.

Never Wire Money
Pay with a money order or ideally cash (or check) in person. Wired money cannot be refunded, and you cannot report it as a scam with money wiring services. If the seller agrees to meet with you but requests money first, do not comply.

Buy from a Reputable Source
Extensively research every detail about the seller to ensure it is a reputable, ethical source: Google their email address to see if anything comes up, do a reverse search on their telephone number’s area code to see if it matches the indicated location, complete a reverse search on the puppy image from the ad, and ask for details about the shipping company they plan to use. If they say they’re from a certain rescue organization, call or visit that location and ask about the details of the puppy you found online.

Avoid Puppy Mills
Signs you’re dealing with a puppy mill include certain breeds being available in large quantities, “new” breeds, the seller being unable to verify veterinarian information, puppies sold before they turn eight weeks old, and the same person or organization selling pets at multiple events, including flea markets and garage sales.

Again, the best way to ensure you're shopping ethically—and to avoid being scammed—is to go in person to the breeder or shelter! As soon as you’ve brought your pup home, you can go ahead and start stockpiling toys, treats and signing up for puppy insurance.

Content provided by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Healthy Paws is one of the leading pet insurance program providers in the U.S. for dogs and cats, and is ranked #1 by customers on leading review websites. Click here to get 10% off Healthy Paws pet insurance!

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out

Cristina Tudino

Cristina Tudino

Director of Content at Ollie. Lover of all dogs, especially chocolate labs (like my four-year-old Gus!) Obsessed with all things health and wellness, for pets and humans.


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