The internet can be a valuable source of information on just about any topic. You can learn about different types of dogs, how to raise a dog, where to walk your dog and where to get your dog.
Many animal shelters and rescues post their adoptable animals on their websites (see www.Petfinder.com for a database of adoptable pets all across North America), and many reputable breeders have informative websites too.
But online classified sites are becoming the main tool used by puppy mills and irresponsible breeders to market and sell their puppies. Often using stock photos of home-raised and well-loved dogs, puppy mills present as loving, caring breeders. In reality, the dogs are suffering in filthy, empty cages in barns or basements.
Be very careful when looking for a pet online. The internet can be a good place to research various breeds and find a few leads for breeders you’d like to visit, but the ONLY way you can know if they are reputable is to visit the facility yourself and ask questions to make sure they meet the criteria for humane, ethical breeding.
So, how do you find good breeders? Go to the breed club websites where you can learn about the breed you're interested in and find breeders who are members of the club and agree to abide by their code of ethics.
Warning signs to watch for
Stay away from breeders whose ads or websites show any of these warning signs:
- Sells puppies of many different breeds, rather than just one or two breeds
- Sells puppies that are younger than 8 weeks old
- Offers to ship or deliver the puppy to buyers
- Does not require buyers to visit them and their dogs
- Sells puppies with breeding rights rather than expecting you to spay/neuter your puppy
- Does not have a written guarantee that spells out their or the buyer’s responsibilities
- Selling puppies at a discount without papers (this is illegal in Canada)
- Requires you to send money to another country
Fake rescues and other online scams
If you plan to adopt from an animal rescue group, you should be aware that some unethical breeders and pet sellers are even beginning to pose as rescue groups, posting ads of "rescued" dogs available for adoption at high prices. The rule of thumb here is similar as for breeders: don’t make a decision to adopt a pet based simply on an online ad. Contact the rescue group and ask them questions to see if they seem reputable. Before you adopt, be sure to check out the shelter or foster home where the animal is being kept.