a pet is not a gift
- Important information on why you shouldn’t give a pet as a gift.
On movies and television, you may see a child receiving a puppy or kitten as a gift, deliriously happy as they hug their new pet. That may be how it is in the first five minutes, but then you have to think of what comes next: a pet is a lifetime commitment!
Pets should never be adopted (or purchased) for another person. Individuals and families thinking of getting a pet should research, prepare and then, when the time is right, seek a pet who realistically complements their lifestyle, schedule and energy level. Many people do not have the time or money to care for a dog over the long term. Different breeds have different behaviors, different needs. Don’t pick out a puppy or kitten because they are a) free or b) cute. Many of those “gift” animals end up in the shelters!
Parents should think twice about giving puppies and kittens to their children as gifts. While children can help with some responsibilities, pets require adult caretakers. Even the brightest kids typically don’t have the strength, attention span, self-discipline and physical strength to care for a new pet. Especially if the new pet is young itself and needs behavior and/or toilet training.
Older kids will usually redirect their attention to friends, school, social activities and eventually dating and planning for college. Unlike with other holiday presents, owners cannot just pop in a fresh battery or put the pet away in the closet after the novelty wears off. In nearly all cases, one of the parents becomes the primary caretaker, doing the feeding, walks, litter scooping and all of the other chores the children once promised to do themselves.
Also, you have to consider the message you are sending to your children. A pet is not a toy. Pets are living beings who require substantial time and daily care plus expenses for food, obedience training, vet bills and pet sitters or kennels. Children get bored with gifts, and it’s heartbreaking when families grow tired of the growing dog. Studies show that too often the gift puppy is given up within the first year, starved for training, socialization and affection. Regardless of what parents tell children and neighbors, the reality is that too many wonderful dogs go unadopted at shelters.
Pups between the ages of 7 to 14 months often wind up at shelters or at the vet for euthanasia, because the owners did not train them, resulting in “behavior problems.” Even worse, some owners dump unwanted pets on the road or in the woods, where they cannot survive on their own, since dogs and cats are domesticated animals that depend on humans for care.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, most puppies and kittens born in the United States never reach their second birthdays. They die from being hit by cars, being euthanized by their owners, starving or being injured in fights with other animals, or taken to shelters or pounds, usually before age two.
The decision to bring a pet into your family should be a decision made by the entire family, not as a surprise gift. Everyone, including the children, should educate themselves on different breeds of dogs and decide what breed or mixed breed would fit best into their lifestyle. An adult in the household will be responsible for this pet, not the children. The adult must be willing to accept this responsibility and be willing to care for this pet for the next 15-20 years, which may well be long after the children lose interest or leave for college!
Instead of buying that cute little puppy or kitten as a gift, give books on pet selection, training, care, health and diet, and individual breeds. Videos and subscriptions to pet magazines and newsletters are also good choices. The AKC (American Kennel Club) also advises pet owners to personally discuss the responsibilities of pet care with prospective owners. Gift-givers can also help with buying pet care supplies, or offer help with the adoption fee after the holiday season.
Once you make that informed decision, as a family, to bring a pet into your lives, please remember that there are many wonderful animals, both mixed-breed and purebred, waiting for homes at your local shelters and SPCAs.
Adopt. Name. Love.