This column ran in The Miami Herald last Sunday. Hope you like it!

Q. My mother bought a teacup Yorkie about six months ago. The pup flew all the way from Nebraska but when we picked her up at the airport she was so sick we ended up spending $2,000 to save her life. The breeder made it clear that he would take her back but that he could not reimburse us for the medical expenses. Is there anything I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else?

A. You’re doing all you can just by telling as many people about it as possible. Out-of-sight breeders (whose prices are often similarly stellar) are almost never a smart idea. Unless you have an excellent referral to an out-of-state breeder from someone you trust—just say no!

Unscrupulous breeders are all over the Internet, hawking their puppy-mill wares as if they were show-quality purebreds. Just because they’re expensive and imported doesn’t mean you’re getting what they advertise online. These pups are often sickly, defective and many times aren’t even representative of their breeds, regardless of their “papers.”

It goes without saying (though I’m going to say it anyway) that puppy stores are not the ideal place to find the love of your family’s life. The vast majority of these pups come from out-of state puppy farms or less-than-professional backyard breeders. Similarly, buying a pup at a roadside stand is a terrible proposition—for both you and the pup sitting in the heat. Call 311 to report this illegal activity if you notice it in your neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I deal with a great many sad cases like your own. Teacup pups are especially overrepresented among the disasters I see. In part, that’s because many teeny-tiny dogs are inherently more fragile and genetically inbred than others. Plus, their recent popularity of also means there are more irresponsible parties trying to get in on the action. That’s why most vets don’t recommend teacups.

For next time, your best bet is to always see the premises, the parents, the breeder license, and the veterinary records. Another good tip is to interview the breeder by telephone first so you won’t take a flight or drive for hours just to get a bad feeling from a breeder who knows you’re there to take a pup home regardless of how things go.

Short of that, Florida has a “pet lemon law” that requires breeders to return pups for a full refund if they are found to be unhealthy within 48 hours. Problem is, love at first sight is hard to resist. So just remember, dishonest puppy dealers prey on our best intentions. Protect yourself and your family from heartbreak accordingly.