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Pets as Christmas Gifts?

Orin Zebest [Flickr]

It may be sad to think about a pet spending Christmas in a cage at an animal shelter ; but it is heart-breaking to think about a pet being returned to a shelter after Christmas, just when it thought it would have a home.  It is true - "A dog [or any pet] is for life, not just for Christmas."


This week many of the largest animal shelters in Germany placed a temporary ban on new adoptions until after the New Year. They said animals are adopted impulsively to be given as Christmas gifts, only to be dumped back at the shelter (or worse) after the holiday. They quote a slogan made famous by Dogs Trust, “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.” They say the decision to adopt a pet should not be taken lightly, and certainly not on impulse – something that often happens at Christmastime.

The German shelters will allow folks to visit and view the pets, but they will have to come back in January to adopt, after they have had time to consider their decision.

It’s true that giving a pet as a gift – at Christmas or any time of the year – should not be a surprise to the recipient. Even if you are giving it to a family member, or your closest friend, what makes a pet special is the bond between human and animal.

Plus, remember that you are not just giving a furry friend. You are also giving a responsibility for time, attention, food, flea and heartworm medications, veterinary bills. Having a pet is a commitment to care for the animal for perhaps ten years or more. It needs to be the right pet, at the right time, for the right reason.

If you really want to surprise someone with a pet for Christmas, give them a leash, or a cat bed, or a pet toy, along with a certificate from your local animal shelter. Tell them you have already paid the adoption fee and they can go pick out their perfect pet after the holidays, when things are not so hectic and there is more time to spend getting to know a new best friend.

You might go with them to help choose just the right pet. They get a furry buddy they really want, and if you bring your camera or phone, you get some great first pictures! And if it turns out they really didn’t want a pet after all, well, your prepaid adoption fee becomes a much-needed donation in their name to a worthy cause.

Here's wishing you a holiday season filled with friendship, and happy endings, especially when you’re speaking of pets!


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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