CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTRF) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is encouraging those considering a holiday pet purchase to watch for deceitful offers as they choose a companion that best fits their family or situation.

Dogs, cats, and other animals appeal to people of all ages, and there is no shortage of pets that need a home, but anyone considering such a gift must proceed with caution.

The advice comes as part of the Attorney General’s Holiday Consumer Protection Week.

“Bringing home a pet is exciting as you take on the responsibility of caring for a new animal companion,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “However, it’s important to ensure your pet comes from a reputable shelter or breeder, and watch for deceptive offers.”

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Unfortunately, representations of animals bought online or in stores can mislead consumers as to the true nature of the pet’s health. Pictures can be falsified, and animals that appear healthy can become ill shortly after purchase. 

Consumers can follow these tips when purchasing a pet: Consider a gift certificate to a local animal shelter or a promise to adopt. Doing so will ease the stress of a rushed decision and allow everyone to participate in making the selection. Never buy a pet without seeing it, especially from someone requesting an “adoption fee” or “shipping fee” via money order or wire transfer.

When purchasing a pet from a breeder, research the breeder, visit its operation in person and ask questions. Get health records and verify the veterinarian’s relationship with the pet. Secure proof of purchase with the breeder’s full contact information. For pets purchased via transport, seek contact information for the veterinarian who provided documentation and vaccines.

Also, verify the name and address of the transport company. Be suspicious of ads that offer popular, expensive breeds for free. Scammers may pose as a shipping company or courier to charge extra “shipping” fees for the animal. Require documentation for any registered or pedigreed pet, including its registration with the appropriate kennel club.

Consumers with questions regarding pet purchases can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808 or visit the office online at www.ago.wv.gov.