Giving Pets as Gifts

Nov 17, 2018

Giving Pets as Gifts

The phrase, "I want to get my kids a puppy for Christmas" used to send shivers down the spines of those working in animal welfare. Even now, the Facebook comments on posts about pets for the holidays are brutal and off goes the bandwagon with people guaranteeing that all Christmas pets will be returned shortly after the holidays. But that does not have to be true, and with some counseling, Christmastime can be the perfect time to find homes for pets!

Impulse vs. Planned
Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether giving a pet as a gift is a good idea, is whether or not it's been discussed previously. So many families legitimately come to an informed decision, all together, that they are ready for a new companion. This can mean parents discussing it with their kids, a young couple discussing it with one another, elderly parents discussing it with caregivers, or a wide variety of other situations. Once the decision is made to get a pet, it can take awhile to find the right one! If the decision has been thought out ahead of time, there is no reason at all why a pet placed "under the tree," so to speak, can't turn out to be a lifelong companion.

They do not get returned more often.
It's often said that animals given as Christmas gifts end up in shelters more often after the warm holiday fuzzies wear off. While this may look like it's true, it has less to do with the time of year than the type & age of animal being given. 

It's very common to give puppies as Christmas gifts (particularly since canine breeding season happens during cooler wintry weather.) But puppies do grow into dogs. And if they are not guided carefully through socialization and obedience training while they're young, they could easily end up being an exuberant and overly energetic adult dog that doesn't have very good manners. That is what tends to land dogs in shelters. The most common age group of dogs that we see here at the VHS is 1-2 years old, likely because the dogs were acquired as puppies and then became too much for their families. We see a lot of intakes filed under "Not Enough Time," "Unrealistic Expectations," "Too Active," "Change in Lifestyle," and so on. There are always multiple factors in every pet's and family's situation, but it almost always boils down to: "We got a puppy and then were suddenly in over our heads when it was no longer small & cute." 

So while some "Christmas puppies" do end up in shelters once they're bigger, it doesn't really matter that they were given as gifts. They just grew up. And they would've done that any time of year. Once again, if all members of the household have expressed interest and commitment to the idea of getting a puppy, it can easily work out. Adoption counseling can help make sure that a good match is made, reducing the likelihood of return.

For a catchy way to remember to make sure you're ready for a true forever companion, Sia has a delightfully peppy holiday tune called "Puppies are Forever!" (You're welcome for getting that stuck in your head.)

The consensus is: yes.
Major animal welfare organizations such as ASPCA and HSUS have given the green light for holiday pet adoptions. Research has never suggested that more pets adopted around Christmastime end up getting returned, and our own statistics support that claim as well. 

Another option: gift certificates!

Many animal welfare agencies, including the VHS very soon, offer gift certificates or gift cards. This is a perfect way to provide someone with the "gift" of a furry friend without actually choosing it for them. Part of the fun is meeting animals at the shelter and finding one that you connect with, so why take that experience away from your loved one? Tie that sucker to a dog bone or a cat toy, stick it in their stocking, and then go with them to choose their new pet!Stay tuned to the VHS website and Facebook page for information about how you can purchase a VHS gift card for your loved one this holiday season. And of course, we are open for Adoptions Tuesday-Saturday 12-6. No mistletoe needed, you may just find your next true love right here at the shelter!