Doesn’t it make us all warm and fuzzy, thinking about having a happy little puppy or kitten to brighten the scene on Christmas morning? Giving pets as gifts comes with the sweetest and best of intentions. Parents love the idea of making their kids smile, and giving them a gift that keeps on giving. A romantic interest may be excited about surprising the one they love with something really special. However, giving pets as gifts is not something that should be taken lightly.
The ASPCA recommends only giving pets as gifts when the receiver has clearly expressed an interest in having one, and has the ability to care for it responsibly.
First, take a look at the recipient’s lifestyle. Do they work 12 hours a day? Is their home a studio apartment with no yard? Are they allergic to pet hair? Questions like these are all important to consider, and are just some of the things that could go wrong with giving someone a pet as a gift. While a pet can certainly be a blessing, the burden of taking care of one can be too much to handle, for some. While it is easy to imagine how happy everyone will be on the first day, is that feeling still going to be there years down the road?
Also ask yourself, is this the right time to bring a pet into the home? The holidays are a stressful time for many families. Introducing a new, permanent family member can add a lot of pressure to the situation. A new dog may become confused by having lots of people around, the lights, the sounds and the tree, for example. It might be a better idea to wait for a calmer day.
Pets and Children
Perhaps you are looking to give a pet to a child that you know wants one. This is fine, but if the child is under 12 years old, the child’s parents should be completely accepting of the fact that they will need to take responsibility for the animal. Although having a pet is a way to get children to learn responsibility, it is a mistake to think they have the ability to care for the animal completely.
There is a debate over how animals are impacted by being given as gifts. Recently, the ASPCA conducted a survey to tackle this question. Their survey showed that 96% of the people who received their pet as a gift thought it either increased or didn’t have any impact at all on how much they loved or were attached to the pet. Of these pets, 86% are still in the home. The survey also showed that there was no difference in attachment whether the pet was a surprise or known about beforehand. In addition to this, several studies conducted in the 1990’s and 2000 showed that pets who were acquired through gift-giving were less likely to be given away than if the owner acquires the pet on his own.
Going Forward With It
If you have decided that surprising your loved one with a pet is the right thing for you to do, consider this. If you make the decision to buy a puppy from a pet store, chances are it came from a puppy mill. Your expensive little cutie may be full of birth defects, for one. Mothers are turned into breeding machines and the puppies are not given adequate nutrition and medical care. The goal of puppy mills is to breed the largest number of puppies that they can, and the puppies often have to live in deplorable conditions. When you buy a puppy from a pet store, you support this inhumane industry. The ASPCA recommends boycotting these stores, and not even buying pet supplies from a store that sells puppy mill puppies.
On the other hand, if you adopt from your local shelter or rescue operation, you are saving a life. If you need help in finding places to adopt pets, contact your local chapter of the American Humane Society or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
An alternative you may want to think about when it comes to your gift giving is this. You could wrap up a few dog toys, treats or other special dog-related item, and put a card with it. Tell the one you love “Let’s go to the animal shelter tomorrow and pick out a pet!” That way if they decide to back out, they can do so before it is too late.