Consider the source. Does the company pass a scam test? How long have they been around? What is the company's purpose? While contests from smaller companies could certainly be legitimate, if you can find no information on the company, that could be a red flag. Do you really want your pet's photo in the hands of a company who has no visible track record?
Look over the rules. Is it clearly laid out what will happen to the photos during and after the contest? Make sure you are comfortable with what's stated. If there are no rules posted, it's probably a better idea not to risk it. You have no idea what they have planned for your pet's photo. The rules need to be clear and they need to be in easy-to-find location. If I can't agree with the rules or even fond them, you can guarantee that my pet's photo is not getting sent to anyone.
What is the prize? Check out all of the prize offerings and make sure it is something you and your pet will benefit from. For instance, your pet will not gain anything from a prize consisting of food that he does not eat. If the prize offers stardom for your pet, will it be compensated? Starring in ads, commercials, or magazines should always be compensated. If that is the only prize your pet will receive in the photo contest, think about the company's motives. They may simply be using the contest as a way to avoid paying for pet models and actors. If our pets are photo contest winners, I would want them to reap the most benefits, not me or the contest host.
Does your pet like posing? If your pet is not comfortable posing for pictures, don't stress him out just to enter a contest. However, if your pet enjoys the practice, let her soak up the attention of the camera. Remember to have plenty of water, nourishment, and entertainment available if the photo shoot will take a considerable amount of time. Make posing for the photo contest a fun event for your pet. If you just have fun with your pet and don't force it, the experience will be more enjoyable for your both. The hamsters in our family enjoy posing for the camera. That's probably due to the fact that we just let them do their thing and snap away, instead of trying to force them into posing a particular way.
Is it something your pet should be paid for? This can be a huge deal-breaker. As mentioned above, some companies hold pet photo contests simply to create PR buzz. If the company is trying to cut down modeling and acting costs by having a contest, is this really a company you'd want your pet working for? If my pet is going to star in a commercial, on a website, in a magazine, or anywhere else, I want them to be compensated fairly. Just like humans should not work for free, neither should animals. They should be fairly rewarded for their efforts.
How many photos will 'win'? If you are entering a contest, the number of winners should be much lower than the number of entrants. If everyone who enters is a winner, the contest is likely not very legitimate. Also, watch for companies who ask you to purchase the items your pet is featured in once they win the contest. If your pet is a contest winner, you should not have to pay any money for any reason. Government taxes on a prize are legitimate. But if you are asked to pay anything other than that, you may be the victim of a pet photo contest scam.
When entering your pet into a photo contest, it's always important to check all the facts first. While it can be exciting and you want to see your pet's name up in lights, there are many factors to consider first. Choose wisely and your pet has a better chance of something worthwhile should she end up a winner. Jump in and you may end up dealing with more than you bargained for.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network