If you’ve got a complaint against a veterinarian you can appeal to your state’s veterinary licensing body. But what do you do when your complaint is against a breeder or a pet shop?

Since pets are considered property under the law and their purchase is toaster oven-ish in nature, your best bet is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). This consumer protection not-for-profit works in the US to help reign in consumer abuse, pet buyers included. (In Canada, the CCBBB plays the same role.)

Since I never recommend that a client purchase a pet from a pet store, it’s hard for me to ask that they consult the BBB before embarking on this endeavor. But it is possible for me to ask they check out the breeder using BBB resources before buying.

Puppy mill-style Internet breeders and others need to be stopped using every tool available to us. They change their company names and dodge consumer awareness of their practices by any means necessary—shouldn’t we get wise and do everything we can within our legal reach?

Our friends, family, acquaintances and co-workers may know what to do when they’re exposed to shoddy business practices, but when it comes to pet purchases somehow they forget that they can appeal to standard consumer protection agencies. Here’s where pets being like toaster ovens in the eyes of the law has its perks.

Because so few of us recognize that pet shops and Internet breeders are rated by the BBB, we don’t go out of our way to file complaints or seek out BBB reviews of these companies (and it’s sooo easy to do online).

Here’s an example: Puppy Kingdom in Miami. I know of at least one unhappy customer in the past 12 months. And yet their rating is a B- (a decent rating) with no complaints filed in the past year. My client had an excellent reason to file a complaint but did not follow through. That means that anyone checking out Puppy Kingdom might assume it’s a fairly reputable place to get a pup.

In fact, when I searched the BBB for pet shops in Florida, most of them had a higher than B rating. What’s up with that? No complaints by consumers, that’s what.

How is a state or municipality to know that pet shops have a poor reputation among veterinarians and animal welfare advocates? If consumers don’t complain when they’re duped, not issued a refund or otherwise stuck with an unhealthy pet, then no one should fault our governing bodies for taking our professional complaints with a grain of salt.

There. I hope I’ve convinced you. So now it’s YOUR job to make sure your friends, family, acquaintances and coworkers do their part—because you’ll tell them….right?