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West Virginia AG issues reminder about buying pets

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging those looking to buy a pet to watch for deceptive offers.

Dogs, cats and other animals appeal to people of all ages at this time of the year, with no shortage of pets needing a home but caution is advised.

“It’s exciting to bring home a new pet and to consider all that comes with caring for a new animal companion. It’s important, though, to watch for deceptive offers and ensure your pet comes from a reputable shelter or breeder,” Morrisey said.

Misrepresentations of animals being bought online or stores can mislead consumers about the truth of a pet’s health. Pictures can be falsified, and animals appearing healthy can become ill shortly after purchase.

Consumers should 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 rushing a decision and allow everyone to participate in making the selection.

* Never purchase 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 and visit in person at their operation. Ask questions.

* Get health records and verify the veterinarian’s relationship with the animal.

* Get a proof of purchase with the breeder’s full contact information.

* For pets purchased via transport, seek contact information for the veterinarian who provided the documentation and vaccines. And get 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, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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