Always Think First
Stop and think before you give a pet as a Christmas gift.
Probably 75 percent of the requests on Santa's list are for a puppy or kitten. Just as many parents want to see that beaming smile on their child's face when he or she sees the little squirming bundle of joy.
Unfortunately, many of these Hallmark moments don't end well.Rebecca Smail, program manager, vector control and veterinary services of the St. Louis County Department of Health, says that within a few weeks after the holidays, the animal shelter begins filling up with the "gifts." The joyful expectation of Christmas morning soon turns into the cold realization that this pet is not a doll that can be played with, and then put on the shelf.
Puppies and kittens need a time to bond, and the holidays, with all the joyful confusion, do not provide an opportune time for this most necessary occurrence. Without the constant care and attention that the animal needs, behavioral issues arise, whether it's biting, training difficulties, or barking. Then the family decides something is wrong with the pet, and the poor animal finds itself shuttled off to the cold confines of a cage in a shelter.
"Many pets (and people) have different attitudes and personalities," Smail said. "The new owner will need to visit with the pet to make sure the personalities and attitudes go well together."
Smail said that the proposed recipient may have a favorite breed, also. "Just because someone wants a dog or puppy doesn't mean they want a Great Dane or a Yorkie. You never know exactly what a person would like or want."
Another reason for not surprising a child or family with a pet is health concerns. "Some people are allergic to pets, and never mention it as it is not typically a topic of casual conversation," Smail said.
The recipient's financial situation should also be taken into consideration. Having a pet is not cheap – food, vet bills, boarding, all these take a toll on the family budget.
Will the pet be left alone all day? A family with parents working outside the home and children at school all day might get overwhelmed with the responsibility of an active puppy anxiously awaiting their arrival.
In lieu of what one should not do, that is, surprising the child and family, one good suggestion is giving a gift certificate for a local animal shelter or rescue organization. Tuck it in a basket filled with pet toys, food, maybe a collar, leash and water/food bowl.
Adopting from a local shelter or rescue organization saves a dog or cat from living a life in a cage. Many people have said that when visiting these places, a pet chooses them, rather than the other way around. Looking at all the tongues and wagging tails, you think, "How can I choose? There are so many!" Then you see that one animal looking at you and you both know you are meant for each other.
This method will have a much better outcome than a Christmas morning surprise.