Imagine you were willing to pay anything to find the best Lab puppy money could buy. Let’s say you’re not inculcated into the proper ways of going about this. Let’s also assume your children are begging you to get one online based on their own Google searches.

Finally you cave and send for the cutest pup in the litter based on a short video showing how vigorous, healthy and well cared for these pups are.

Your pup arrives at the airport and your children are in love on the spot. The pup indeed seems happy and healthy except for some diarrhea the breeder has informed you will more than likely result after the stress of the flight and change in diet.

The next day you bring your new pup to the vet expecting a clean bill of health. Unfortunately, your vet finds 1) a low-grade heart murmur, 2) bilateral Ortolani signs (an indicator of hip dysplasia) and 3) more coccidia (a protozoan parasite) on fecal examination than this vet has ever seen before on one single microscope slide.

It’s clear that the vet who signed the health certificate for this dog should have his head examined…or his license revoked…or both. None of these problems were mentioned  in the paperwork accompanying this pup. And the health certificate was signed a few days before the date of my examination. How is it that we can hold such divergent opinions on the health of this particular animal?

Never mind the price of the animal (into the thousands!). This case is just a travesty all around. How the heck does this stuff happen?  Here’s a short list:

1) Because few of these cases are ever reported to any authority.

2) Because interstate sales create jurisdiction issues and hamper the buyers’ belief that there might be possible solutions to the problem.

3) Because buyers feel victimized and many victims aren’t keen on announcing their now-evident ignorance to the world.

4) Because the kids are in love with the pet already.

5) Because the pet is sick and if the buyers send it back it might be euthanized or worse: it might not make it through the flight even if they could find a vet to write a health certificate (usually required to fly the animal home).

6) Because buyers have spent the money already and they intuit they’re never going to get it back without a team of lawyers.

There are plenty more reasons but you get the drift. It’s practically a done deal once these buyers receive their pets from afar. I’ve rarely seen them returned (and I’ve easily dealt with over a hundred such cases).

The big picture isn’t pretty in these cases: Responsible vets tend not to know what to do to resolve the problem effectively. Responsible breeders don’t know how to protect their industry from such predators. State licensing boards don’t often hear about these cases and the AVMA doesn’t have jurisdiction on legal issues (which are the domain of the licensing bodies). Meanwhile, Animal Control is besieged with the unwanteds and the more egregious cruelty concerns taking place in their own municipalities.

What will it take to bring an end to these practices? Increased consumer complaints? Buyers willing to prosecute these cases from across state lines? Greater local enforcement of breeding practices?

In my estimation, educating the pet buying public seems the only surefire solution. As with the drug trade or any other dusky-hued markets, eliminating demand is the crucial component of success. So inform your friends. Put out the word. And, above all, “Just say NO!”