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Pets for Christmas Maybe Not Such a Bad Idea

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 13, 2013

PHOENIX – It's always been conventional wisdom that giving a pet as a holiday gift is probably a mistake.

But new research is changing some minds.

Bretta Nelson, spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society, says most pets given as gifts appear to turn out just fine.

"There's been recent studies done that have shown those pets are not any more likely to make their way into a shelter, nor is that person's loyalty to a pet any less than if they had gotten that pet for themselves," she explains.

Nelson stresses people still have to realize that bringing a pet into a family will likely be a 10-to-20-year commitment.

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, Nelson says it is far better to check with friends and family before giving a pet as a gift.

"Just really looking at, how well do you know the person?” she says. “Have they expressed interest in owning a pet and have they done so before?

“And really at the end of the day, I think friends and family members are probably going to know best whether that person is ready for a pet."

Nelson says one Christmas gift option is to pay the adoption fees in advance, but leave the final decision up to the recipient of the gift pet.

"If you're just not quite sure who they want to bring into their home, the Critter Credit gift card is a wonderful option,” she says. “You can give that to people and then all come down to the shelter as a family or together to make that decision."

Nelson says parents also have to remember that young children will not be able to shoulder the entire responsibility for pet care, and that it is really a long-term obligation for the entire family.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ