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You can buy practically everything online these days. It’s easy, convenient, and spares us from dealing with busy parking lots and crowded stores. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking advantage of the convenience, the one thing you should never buy online is a pet. Yes, we know it’s hard to resist a photo of a cute puppy, but let’s take a moment to think about what’s hiding behind that cute, fluffy face.

The Internet makes it all too easy to create a picture-perfect image that hides an ugly truth. Photos of adorable puppies in baskets with little bows on their head are used to attract customers, and stock images of adult dogs romping through the grass depict an image of happiness and health.  Add in a few sentences about well-loved, hand-raised animals and you have the perfect platform to make a profit.

But as we all know, not everything you see and read online is true. Puppy mills and scammers are taking advantage of our obsession with online shopping to make a profit, but it’s the dogs suffering behind the scenes who are ultimately paying the price.

What They’re Hiding

Buying a puppy online and having it shipped right to your door might seem convenient, but the problem is you’re not seeing where the puppy was born or where its parents live. This is why puppy mills and backyard breeders sell online, because that way, nobody sees the adult dogs who are living in squalor or being confined to tiny cages for their entire lives.

Customers being sold unhealthy puppies is also an issue, especially with more breeders selling “teacup” and “micro” breeds (not to be confused with “toy” breeds). These dogs cost thousands of dollars and are often bred so tiny they often suffer from genetic conditions and serious medical issues. But they won’t tell you about these potential issues upfront because then you wouldn’t buy the puppy.

Online sites and ads also help breeders cover up how large their operation truly is. One of the “red flags” for spotting a backyard breeder or puppy mill is if they’re offering several different breeds for sale. To hide their size, puppy mills are now selling puppies through multiple sites, creating the image of a small breeder selling only one or two breeds, when they’re a large-scale operation.

What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

When you buy a pet online, you’re also increasing the likelihood of becoming the victim of a scam. Someone might post an ad on eBay, Craigslist, or a website offering to sell puppies, sometimes even incorporating a sad story about how they have to find a home for an “oops” litter of puppies. All you have to do is send them money, and the puppy will be shipped to you. But then you get a puppy that’s different than what you expected, is sick, or there’s no puppy at all and now you’ve been scammed out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Online puppy brokers aren’t any better. deceived customers by filtering the ratings on their website, hiding the fact that people were submitting low ratings and complaints about particular breeders. As a result of their dishonesty, customers ended up buying sick puppies from these breeders. Their deceitful actions led to a group of consumers filing a lawsuit with assistance from the Humane Society of the United States.

Don’t Believe the Lies

As awareness about puppy mills grows, breeders and online puppy brokers have to work harder to convince shoppers to buy through their websites and ads. Some online puppy retailers state they’re against puppy mills or post fake “advocacy” information on their websites to make you think they’re legitimate. They’re trying to make you believe that all of their puppies come from small, reputable breeders when that isn’t necessarily the case.

When you buy a puppy online or through a pet store, you’re more than likely supporting a puppy mill. Sure your puppy is getting a great home, but the adults are condemned to a life of suffering where they will never know the feeling of being petted or snuggling in a warm bed. They will live their lives in misery until they are no longer profitable to the breeder and are killed or sold at auction. Do these innocent creatures deserve such a horrible fate? Absolutely not. And the most effective way to end the suffering is to stop supporting puppy mills.

Adoption is the Best Option

Help us put an end to puppy mills by choosing to adopt. Shelters are full of homeless animals, including mixed-breed and purebred dogs and puppies, who want nothing more than to have a loving home. And with over 347,000 dogs and cats dying in U.S. shelters each year, you are saving a life by adopting.

Shelters and rescues want their animals to find the right family, so don’t be discouraged by having to answer questions or fill out an application. In the end, all they want is what’s best for you and the animal, and to make sure that particular dog is the right fit. Because they’re not in it for profit, they’re in it for the animals, and that’s exactly how it should be.

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