The Downside of Pets as Gifts
Dr. Michael Omidi is an advocate for children’s health and animal welfare. In this post, he looks at the perennial problem of unwanted “gift pets” and praises several organizations that are working to remedy the situation.
Unfortunately, even after years of work by established organizations like the ASPCA, many people still give puppies and kittens as Christmas gifts. Even newer, smaller organizations like Pet Rescue warn against the practice. For some reason, thousands of people continue to put bows on puppies and kittens each year at holiday time.
The crux of the matter is that pets require a major time commitment and careful planning if they are to be properly incorporated into a household. Experts suggest that future pet owners make a care plan for their prospective family additions. What’s more, everyone should keep in mind that it is wisest to adopt dogs and cats from reputable shelters rather than unlicensed or amateur breeders.
Pets should never be a surprise
Animal welfare organizations old and new advise against giving dogs and cats as gifts. Pet Rescue, a small nonprofit based in Florida, devotes a long discussion to the topic on its website. Giant entities like the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is another expert source that lobbies against the entire pets-as-gifts trend.
Why should you never give a pet as a surprise gift to anyone, especially a child and particularly at Christmas? Here are just a few of the reasons offered up by veterinarians, shelter managers and animal advocates:
- Pets as surprises are unplanned and typically suffer bad fates
Surprising someone with a fluffy kitten or squirming puppy on Christmas morning is a romantic but terrible idea. Parents and children both need to be committed to long-term care of the animal. Better to take your child along with you to an animal shelter and select a dog or cat the right way, and then make a careful plan about its care.
- Gift pets encourage unlicensed breeders to make quick profits
Every gift puppy or Christmas kitten encourages black market, amateur breeders to continue their harmful practices. This is how diseased and poorly-bred animals get into the general population. The cure: when you want a pet, head to a local, licensed animal shelter.
- Winter is the worst time to bring a new pet into your home
Aside from the fact that freezing weather is tough on small animals, the holiday season is not a time when children have spare time to attend to pet care. If you want to give your child a pet, do so during the summer months when school is out. That way, the kids will have plenty of time to learn about the right ways to raise and care for animals.
Mismanagement of dog populations can cause significant health dangers, especially in poor nations where rabies is a common problem. I dealt with the topic in a recent post about wild dogs in third-world nations.
Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season,
Dr. Michael Omidi
The Omidi brothers, Michael Omidi and Julian Omidi, are philanthropists who support numerous charitable and public health causes, including animal welfare. The Omidis are co-founders of Animal Support, a charity that works to eliminate animal abuse and mistreatment.