Pet Tales

Do your homework before plunking down big bucks for a pet.

A picture might be worth a thousand words, bit it's only the starting point when purchasing a dog

A picture might be worth a thousand words, bit it’s only the starting point when purchasing a dog

We can stream movies at any time of day or night, order books or smallkitchen appliances of next-day delivery, or send off for a dozen pairs of shoes for in home try on, free returns guaranteed. The internet allows us to acquire all kinds of goods at a speed undreamed of less than a decade ago.

So why not pets? Americans spent more than $2 billion last year purchasing dogs, cats and other companion animals, according to a 2013 survey by the American Pet Products Association. Anyone in search of a puppy has run across websites such as,, or, not to mention advertisements on craigslist or It’s no longer “How much is that puppy in the window?” but “How much is that puppy on the website?”

It’s easy to fall in love with a pet in a picture, but not so easy to evaluate that potential pet’s temperament, health and living conditions. Last November, a new USDA rule brought large-scale online pet sellers under federal oversight, but it’s important to know that neither the USDA nor dog registries such as the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club guarantee puppies or require breeders to test dogs for heritable problems, to socialize puppies or even to be knowledgeable about the breed of dogs in general. Registration papers certify only that bother parents were of the same breed. It’s up to you to research the breed and breeder to make an informed decision.

You might think that a dog destined to be “just a pet” doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of champions, health-tested parents, health guarantees, and in- person visit to examine the breeder’s home and kennel and all the rest that comes along with buying a dog from a reputable breeder. But pets are family members, and it just makes good financial and emotional sense to choose one carefully, not only to ensure that the dog is a good fit for your family, but also to reduce the risk of high veterinary bills and congenital or genetic diseases.
It’s best if you can see the puppy in person before you buy so you can evaluate his temperament and the conditions in which he was raised. If that’s impossible, ask for references that included the breeder’s veterinarian and previous puppy buyers – and call them. Try to find a trusted friend or relative in the area who can examine the puppy and interview the breeder on your behalf.

To get the most for your money, expect the seller to provide up-to-date health certifications for both of a pup’s parents on file with health registries, such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and the Canine Health Information Center. Check CHIC to see which health tests are recommended for the breed you’re interested in.

The seller should offer a health guarantee against heritable problems for the first two years of the pup’s life and lifetime support when you have questions about the dog’s health or behavior. He or she should provide a sales contract that includes a clause stating that the breeder will take the dog back at any time in his life if you can’t keep him.

If you are buying a “designer dog,” a crossbreed such as a Maltipoo, Yorkipoo, Puggle or Labradoodle, ask for the same health certifications and warranties that you would if you were buying a purebred. All of this advice applies even if all you plan to do with your dog is walk him around the block ever day and sit on the sofa with home and watch TV.

  • To Adopt or foster a pet:For information: Call 533-7387 (LEE-Pets) or visit When calling, please refer to the animal’s ID number. The website updates hourly so you will be able to see which pets are still available.
  • Adoption hours: 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The shelter is located at 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers, next to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, off Six Mile Cypress Parkway.
  • The Package: Adoptions include spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, rabies vaccinations and county license if 3 months or older, flea treatment, worming, heartworm test for dogs 6 months and older, feline AIDS and leukemia test for cats, training DVD and a 10-day health guarantee, services valued at $500.
  • Fees: Range from $10-$95
  • To help: Anyone interested in fostering puppies, kittens; dogs or cats should contact the shelter or download a foster application from Those interested in helping to purchase Kuranda dog beds, which help make doges more comfortable at the shelter, should also visit the website.

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