Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why Not to Give a Pet as a Holiday Gift

Photo by luna chick FlickrIsn't this a gorgeous picture? Stunning Klondike the Husky framed by a Christmas tree. But that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to give Huskies, or any pets, as Christmas gifts.

The ASPCA and The Humane Society of the United States discourage people from giving pets as gifts, especially during the holiday season. Here are some reasons:

- Think about adopting a pet after New Year's. There is usually too much activity (family get-togethers, parties) at this time of year for the animal to be comfortable and adjust properly to a new home. Behavior problems that may be difficult to reverse could develop at this time.

- If you're shopping for a friend or relative who wants a pet, educate yourself and the recipient with books that teach responsible pet ownership. If the person is interested in specific breeds or mixed-breeds, learn about what kinds best match the person's lifestyle and expectations. Then give a gift certificate stating that you will cover the expenses involved in adopting an animal of the person's choice after the holidays.

- Adding a pet to your home during the holidays should be a family decision and not looked at as a gift for any one individual. Everyone in the household should want the pet. If not, the pet could tragically end up unwanted, abused, neglected or left to the local community shelter.

- Animals are not inanimate objects, and should not be placed under the Christmas tree as if they are toys or a new blouse. Never give your child a pet Christmas morning or the first night of Hanukkah, since the excitement and activity during this time could be very stressful for the pet.

- Always make sure the recipient you are presenting with a pet wants to adopt and is part of the decision making process. Many shelters, including the ASPCA, ask that all household members meet the pet and unanimously agree to the adoption to avoid the animal being returned.

- Make sure your pet has a safe, quiet haven to retreat to if the holiday bustle becomes too much.

- "Pets are a serious, long-term commitment and the decision to include a pet in a home should come after careful consideration," said Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for The HSUS' companion animals programs. "Pets can end up being relinquished to animal shelters due to a person’s lack of time or financial resources".

- In addition, though that puppy or kitten in the window of the pet store may look irresistible, pet stores are often stocked by “puppy mills,” mass breeding facilities that often subject animals to inhumane conditions in the pursuit of profits. Animals from these facilities can suffer from behavioral and physical problems which may not be obvious right away.

- The HSUS urges people to adopt from local animal shelters, where up to a quarter of all dogs are purebreds.

This excellent article called "No Christmas Puppies, Please!" provided by PetRescue.Com lists additional reasons why giving animals as Christmas gifts is not a good idea:

- "Christmas puppies" are often impulse purchases, in a spirit of love and giving and generosity that goes with the season, but without the hard self-assessment that goes into asking oneself if one has the time and the energy and the inclination to give the necessary commitment to raising and socializing and educating that puppy.

- Children need to learn that a living puppy is being adopted into the family - as a living family member who will contribute much, but who will also have needs of its own, which the rest of the family is making a commitment to try to meet. A puppy who makes its first appearance as a gift item under the Christmas tree is more likely to be thought of by children as an object, as a thing-like toy rather than as a family member. This will not teach one of the most valuable lessons there is to learn from a puppy, which is respect for living beings and concern for others in the form of attention to their needs.

- Many people have a somewhat romantic view of what dog- ownership is like. This romanticism can become exaggerated by the warmth and loving kindness associated with the Christmas season. People who have not had dogs before, or who have not had dogs since they were themselves children...often are completely unaware of how much work it is to raise a puppy from infancy into a good adult canine companion. They may have mental images of happy times romping with the dog on the beach, or curling up in front of the fireplace, of playing Frisbee in the park or of hunting with a loyal companion. All these are things they might well eventually enjoy with their canine companions. But they may have temporarily incredibly much work it takes to raise and socialize a dog from puppyhood to that point of mature canine companionship.

- The Lassie Syndrome - everyone hopes for that imaginary dog who has E.S.P. and who automatically knows how to behave in human company without needing any training. In other words, they want a dog like "Lassie." But "Lassie" was a fictional character. "Lassie" actually was owned and trained by Rudd Weatherwax, one of the most hardworking and successful professional trainers of dogs in the history of US television and film. Rudd Weatherwax spent his entire lifetime training "Lassie" to do those things which looked spontaneous in the fictional story lines. No real, non-fictional dog is actually like that.

The Fate of an Untrained Christmas Puppy
Many dogs between the ages of 7-14 months are taken to the pound or to the vet for euthanasia by a frustrated owner as an "uncontrollable" dog, or as a dog with "behavior problems." Some owners take the dog to a local shelter telling themselves that it will be adopted by someone else. (Chances are almost certain that it won't; nobody else wants an untrained, unsocialized dog's behavior problems either.) By that age the untrained dog is a full-grown and unruly adolescent. The jumping, biting, barking and growling that were cute in a puppy are scary and potentially harmful in an adult sized dog. Or the dog may have run away and been hit by a car. Or it may be adopted into a series of homes, one after another, none of which can adequately control it, until it finally winds up on death row at the pound.

To avoid contributing to this terrible trend, please keep this information in mind, and share it with anyone you know who is thinking of bringing a new animal into their family, especially during the holiday season.

Thanks to Klondike's mom for allowing us to use her photo!


MaPaw said...

Excellent advice. Buy a book about dog training to go under the tree and wait until after the holidays adopt.

Anonymous said...

Great reminder! We'll share it with our friends!
The Army of Four

EnergyPaws said...

Excellent article. Thank you!