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Ask a Vet:
My kids want a puppy for Christmas. Is that a good idea?

A puppy or kitten (and also, older dogs and cats who need a loving home) can make a wonderful gift when everything goes right. But if you don’t plan ahead, it can be a disaster for everyone, including the animal.

Some shelters restrict adoptions immediately prior to the holidays because so many people decide that a pet makes an ideal last-minute gift. When people give pets as a gift without adequate preparation, it becomes a sure recipe for disaster.

However, many shelters recognize that with adequate preparation and planning, a pet can make a joyous addition to Christmas morning.

Keep in mind

  1. Never, EVER give a pet as a “surprise” gift. Be sure the recipient is ready and excited for a new family member. Dogs can make wonderful gifts, but unlike sweaters or socks, you can’t return them if they don’t fit.Is the recipient ready and able to make a commitment for the animal’s entire lifetime? Can they afford veterinary care, vaccine and dog food costs? Would the animal potentially damage valuable furniture or antiques? If someone lives in a high-rise, is he or she allowed pets? How easy will it be to toilet train the puppy if there are long delays waiting for an elevator? The relationship between human and dog must be approached with care and respect – only then will you have a gift truly worth giving!
  2. Be sure the pet matches the owner’s lifestyle and abilities. For example, a puppy that requires a lot of attention might be a mistake for a single working person, who must be out of the house for eight or more hours every day. Equally, giving a kitten unannounced on Christmas morning to someone who has no litter and litter box, no cat food, and no suitable toys can be worse than an evil neighbor giving your kids a drum set and trumpets.It is also important to match the energy level of a pet to its future owner. Giving a St Bernard or a Great Dane might not be a good idea for an older person with arthritis, although a small Poodle or Bichon might be great.
  3. Take some time to make the decision.  The dogs and cats at the humane shelter, unlike those at pet stores, do not have a “best before date.” They are not a commodity that has to be sold in a hurry, no matter what. Pet stores that sell dogs and cats (often at an outrageous price, and sometimes from puppy mills) have no interest in either the animal’s welfare or your welfare. All they want is your money, before the dog or cat becomes too old to sell.The SPCA, however, offers a counseling service, and will make sure that the dog or cat really is a welcome gift, and that both the pet and its family will be happy for the rest of the animal’s life.

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