See we have so many animals in our shelters, just wanting to be loved and in their fur-ever homes. That when the Holiday season approaches, people seem to think that giving a pet is “the” best gift! It isn’t, it is called Impulse shopping and the animal is what pays the price when the one it is intended for gets bored and decides to return it from where it was purchased or dropped off at the local SPCA or animal shelter, where the “hope” is it will get adopted or rescued. Not thinking of the very likely and real chance that their once present, is now on death row waiting to be euthanized.
If you still need a reality check, take a look at the information below:
- Animal shelters experience a spike in animal surrenders right after the Holiday is over.
- The one presented with the “gift” didn’t want an extra commitment (average 15 years) in an already-busy life, or a household member had an allergy where short-term exposure was not problematic, but the person could not live with a pet.
- Some children, especially those not exposed to animals previously, became frightened of the strange new creature, and in turn spooked pet, which created an air of distrust for all involved. Although the previous guardian’s paperwork might say that the pet was good with their kids, their actual socialization might not have included what the next child wanted from a pet when they begged for a live Christmas present (playing dress-up, putting in a stroller, etc.).
- Resident animals in the home also got the short end of the stick. If any significant holiday activity was going on in the home, i.e., family staying over, holiday parties, etc., resident pets (especially cats) were already having tough time adapting their sense of “stable-sameness” to the unusual activities. Now throw in another animal, especially of the same species, and—more often than not—disaster is imminent. Once again, the paperwork at the shelter may have assured the adoptive family that the new pet would play well with others, but this assumes ideal conditions, which the holidays do not provide.
Now that we’ve outlined the reasons why you shouldn’t surprise family and other loved ones with animals as gifts, there are ways to bring four-legged love home for the holidays without such risk.
Many animal shelters have gift certificates you can buy to place in a box instead of an animal. (You won’t have to poke air holes in the box either!) These generally cover the cost of adoption, and you may be able to add the cost of basic supplies such as a collar, leash, brush, bowl, or litterbox. If your local shelter doesn’t offer gift certificates, make one yourself. That way, the next day or next week, you and your loved one can find the perfect new companion.
Nowadays, many shelters have websites with pictures of their adoptable animals, so the whole family can go online and check out the choices. (Check out Petfinder.com, where you can search all shelters in your area.) There is also empowerment in a child in going to a shelter and picking out his or her own companion. It’s also a perfect time to let them know that caring for a living thing requires responsibility. It’s never too early to instill the concept of stewardship.
It is essential to introduce everyone who lives in the home, from children to housemates to other pets, to the new pet before adoption. In fact, many shelters require this. There’s nothing to lose, but important lessons to gain. For instance, the adoptive family may discover that the dog requires a bit more training in the “down-stay” so that he or she doesn’t relentlessly pursue the new addition. A housemate’s allergy may or may not act up in the presence of specific animals. (See our articles about setting up a “base camp,” cat-to-cat introductions, and cat-to-dog introductions.)
Remember, no surprises are good surprises when it comes to animals this holiday season. Have a great one, and congratulations to all of you who will adopt and bring a homeless pet into your heart and home!