Experts: Think before giving puppy as a Christmas gift

Puppies, kittens are more work than many realize

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Neither Hanna Marks or Allison Sweatt would tell someone “no” to adopting a puppy or kitten in the next few weeks before Christmas. Pardon the both of them, however, if they hem and haw before saying yes.

But offer several tips that should help everyone be prepared should a family wish to move forward with animal adoption around the holidays.

The Ark Animal Centre hopes that family members realize that a puppy or kitten might not make the best Christmas gift.

The Ark Animal Centre hopes that family members realize that a puppy or kitten might not make the best Christmas gift.

Sweatt leads Richmond County Animal Advocates, a nonprofit animal welfare organization that helps transfer dogs and cats from places like the Richmond County Animal Shelter to adopting families or rescues, where animals then live and wait to be adopted.

Marks, 17, is rescue coordinator for the Humane Society of Richmond County. The nonprofit organization is based at the Richmond County Animal Shelter with a primary goal of adopting out the dogs and cats that animal control officers or members of the general public bring to the shelter.

So why would two people whose mission focuses on animal adoption discourage, if not outright prohibit, animal adoptions this time of year? For one reason: so the animals don’t end up right back at the shelter once the holiday has passed.

“A puppy is not just a toy,” said Marks. “It’s not like a toy you can take back to Walmart. (The toy) isn’t going to mourn your loss or risk being euthanized. A puppy is a lifetime commitment. I don’t think people realize that when they adopt them at Christmas.”

Sweatt said she feels there’s a lot people don’t realize when it comes to giving an animal, especially a puppy. There’s the youthful exuberance that only a puppy can provide — which can lead to getting into things it ought not to — plus the usual potty training problems. At a time of of year that stress levels already are higher than normal, adding a puppy to the mix might not be in the best interest of most families.

“Before you get a puppy, you need to think of all the pros and cons,” Sweatt said. “It needs to be a family decision. It needs to be well thought out.”

Despite heartrending sketches like this, it could be in the animal's best interest to remain at a shelter over the holiday instead of being adopted at Christmas, then discarded shortly into the new year.

Despite heartrending sketches like this, it could be in the animal’s best interest to remain at a shelter over the holiday instead of being adopted at Christmas, then discarded shortly into the new year.

Sweatt said families should take into consideration their personal travel plans over a holiday, too. During this time of year, “people are not home,” she said, and the puppy needs quite a bit of attention.

And there’s one rule Sweatt said should not be broken. A puppy “should never be a surprise gift. You should not get an impulse animal.”

Does the little boy or girl want a puppy or a pony? But the kid a fake one, Sweatt said, until they are old enough to take care of one.

Sweatt also discourages puppies intended for children under the age of 5. They won’t be the primary caretakers, she said, and the adults might not realize how much work there is to be done.

“It’s good to have adoptions,” Marks said, “but not when you know they’re going to return. I would not say ‘no.’ I would explain the responsibility and costs and time it’s going to take to train that dog, and make sure, in my opinion, that you are ready to accept this responsibility of a dog.”

Marks said if she’s telling a family the animal must be spayed or neutered, or average vet or food bills and house training issues, “their reaction on that will tell you right away” if the family is ready or not.

FIA

Both Richmond County Animal Advocates and the Humane Society of Richmond County have foster programs. Generally, volunteers are sought to house cats or dogs that otherwise would be left in the shelter and care for them until a spot becomes available at a rescue or a permanent private home. Often, Sweatt said, these animals already have a destination in mind. In some cases, either nonprofit can help with the cost of food and other necessities while the animal is being fostered.

dog3_rcaaThe other option, Sweatt said, is FIA — Foster with Intent to Adopt.

All too often, animals as gifts — especially surprises — don’t work out.

Christmas, Sweatt said, is “the biggest time of the year for people to dump their animals at the shelter.”

A better option, she said, is to give a family a voucher to get their pet spayed or neutered.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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  • Alice Kaulfers

    If people are truly interested in giving a pet a home and it is their first time they could Foster one first. It will help a fur baby that needs it.

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