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A Pet for Christmas is a Pet for Life

PHOTO: If a cat or a dog is on your child's list for Santa this year, experts say the decision needs to be well thought out and should ideally involve the whole family. Photo credit: Mona Shand.
PHOTO: If a cat or a dog is on your child's list for Santa this year, experts say the decision needs to be well thought out and should ideally involve the whole family. Photo credit: Mona Shand.
December 12, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Waking up to find a puppy or a kitten under the tree on Christmas morning might be a child's dream, but experts caution parents to think far beyond the holidays when considering a new pet.

KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States, says bringing an animal into the family requires the same level of planning as any other addition, because this will likely be a 10-to-20-year commitment.

"It's just a fact that small children aren't quite responsible enough to handle all of the duties for a dog or a cat,” she explains. “Even teenagers often end up with very busy lives or going off to college. "

Experts say many pets end up in shelters each year because families don't give the decision enough forethought. Most local animal shelters have adoption counselors on hand who are available to meet with families and discuss all the issues.

While a Christmas surprise works well in movies and on television, Theisen says it is far better for all parties to choose a family pet as a family. She suggests leaving clues like a plush animal and a litter box under the tree instead.

"Hold off until the chaos of the holidays winds down a little bit to actually go to the local shelter and have the whole family participate in picking out the new pet," she says.

Theisen adds that many local shelters will host adoption events and specials in the days after Christmas, where families can work with counselors to make the best possible match.


Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO