Beware of buying a pet online

By | January 29, 2019

Increasingly, people are looking for and finding their new pets online, using a range of different websites.

It’s important to know what to look for when searching for a pet on the internet, especially when it comes to the tell-tale signs of unethical breeders.

A good first port of call is to read the RSPCA’s Smart Puppy and Dog Buyers Guide, which you can find online at

It’s also a great idea to check out your local animal shelter in the first instance – there are always dogs and cats of all ages looking for homes and a new start. You might just find the perfect pet for you, right there and looking for a new home!

If you are going to look online for a pet, below are some of the red flags you should keep an eye out for, to avoid heartbreak and ensure you’re only purchasing your pet from a responsible breeder who is caring properly for their animals.

How old is the animal being advertised?

If you’re looking for a puppy or a kitten and the advertised age is younger than eight weeks, this is a big red flag. At less than eight weeks of age, the puppy or kitten won’t be weaned, and they will have poor immune systems. It’s not safe to transport very young animals over long distances, as it can lead to dehydration and susceptibility to disease.

A trustworthy seller will only be advertising puppies and kittens as available after eight weeks.

Is delivery being offered?

You should never buy an animal sight unseen, and equally, good breeders will never sell animals to owners they haven’t met in person. A trustworthy breeder will want to meet the new owners to make sure you’re a good fit, and will have lots of questions for you.

It’s equally important for you to meet the puppy or kitten in person, along with its mother (and if possible, its father too). Pay attention to the behaviour the mother is exhibiting – if she seems disinterested in watching you play with her offspring, that’s a red flag and could signal a lack of bond due to a stressful breeding environment.

How much information is the ad providing to you?

A good online ad for a pet will have plenty of information, including whether the animal is microchipped, desexed, how it has been bred and sourced, and even information about its parents. A lack of information can indicate an unethical seller who is hoping you don’t notice this absence of important facts.

Similarly, if the ad says that parents are ‘DNA tested’, make sure to ask for proof of this testing, and information about what the breeder will be doing with the results (e.g. no longer breeding from dogs with those diseases or conditions).

Make sure you’re also aware of any specific health issues common in the breed you’re looking at – do your research and talk to your vet.

Bringing a new pet into the family is an exciting time, so with these factors in mind, you should be able to ensure that your new puppy or kitten has been given the best start in life, and will be a great addition to your family.

The RSPCA relies on donations to rescue, protect and care for animals, and educate humans. 

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