SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Looking to pick a new puppy for a present? Or maybe a kitty for Christmas? With Christmas around the corner, advocates are reminding people that pets aren’t toys: Do not buy them for others unless you have done your research. 

“Please be aware they do live a long time. They do cost money to care for. You want to get one that’s the best for your family and your lifestyle, so do some homework,” said Temma Martin, spokesperson of Best Friends Animal Society

She said any home is better than a shelter, but only if owners know what they’re getting into. Best Friends Utah doesn’t want to see these pets end up in their shelters months down the line. 

“Shelters across Utah and across the country are so overwhelmed right now,” Martin said. 

She asked potential pet owners to adopt instead of shopping for one, especially when there has been a 10% increase in shelter dogs. 

But if you’re set on getting a new furry friend for your family, a word of advice from advocates: avoid buying online. 

“A lot of the pets that you see online don’t even exist,” Martin said. 

They say even if you do get a dog, they were likely bred in a puppy mill. 

The Better Business Bureau said 35% of their scam reports are about fake puppy sellers and 80% of sponsored pet ads may be fake. 

They said scams skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the average victim left $1,000 poorer and puppy-less. 

“Save yourself the heartbreak and all the money you might otherwise invest and lose,” Martin said. “Don’t buy a puppy online.”

Advocates said there are plenty of pets ready to find a home, so before you place a puppy in a bow under the tree, please know what you’re getting into.  

“There’s no better time to adopt a pet and help with the shelter crisis,” Martin said.