Animal welfare officials urged prospective pet owners to beware of unscrupulous dealers who illegally peddle puppies -- many in poor health or too young to sell -- over the Internet, in parking lots, at swap meets and in other shady ways.
The San Diego Humane Society is taking "another step in the right direction to end animal suffering" by initiating a three-month sting operation designed to nab the perpetrators in the act, said Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the agency.
"It's the responsibility of every animal owner to make informed decisions when purchasing an animal so together we can protect these defenseless animals who aren't getting the care they need," he said.
Pet owners may wind up spending thousands of dollars on veterinary bills for a sick puppy that might eventually die as a result of poor nutrition and general lack of proper care during the most fragile stage of its life, SDHS spokeswoman Kelli Herwehe said.
Those caught improperly selling animals will be prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law," according to Randy Lawrence, director of law enforcement for the Humane Society.
"It's illegal to sell an animal under the age of eight weeks because of the medical and socialization issues it can cause during the animal's development," he said. "It's also illegal to sell animals in a parking lot. It's important to end the sale of underage animals to protect consumers and to protect the health and well-being of the animal."
The San Diego Humane Society, which includes Santee in it's coverage area, encourages people to adopt pets from shelters or rescue agencies and offered the following tips for those considering the purchase of an animal:
-- Find a responsible local breeder.
-- Make sure the animal has been seen by a veterinarian. Request vaccination records from the seller, and confirm them. Unvaccinated puppies and kittens may have contracted a serious disease.
-- Be wary of meeting a seller in an unusual location, such as a parking lot or street. Instead, try to rendezvous where the animal has been living. Conditions during the first few months of life can have a lasting effect on an animal's health and temperament.
-- Ask the seller questions. It's important to know the animal's history and temperament.
-- Use a traceable form of payment rather than cash, and ask for a receipt that includes an imprint of the seller's name, address and license number. Someone who only accepts cash or won't provide a receipt is not a reputable seller.
-- Ask for a health guarantee and find out if the animal can be returned. A seller who agrees to these conditions is more likely to care about the animal and have its best interested in mind.
-- Ask to meet the parent animals, and look for signs of good temperament, friendly behavior and sound health.
-- Ensure that an animal being sold does not seem ill, depressed or lethargic, characteristics that could be signs of serious medical problems.
-- Be certain you're ready for a pet. While puppies and kittens are often irresistible, they will become adult animals and can live 20 years or even longer. Owning a pet is a big responsibility and should be a decision made by the whole family.
-City News Service contributed to this post
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