OPINION: Think before you give, or receive, a pet for Christmas


The holidays season is here, and people are searching for the perfect gifts for friends and family. We have all seen beautiful images of cute puppies and kittens adorned with bows and the reactions of joy on the faces of the new owners. What happens next?

While some animals do find a happily ever after on Christmas morning, many of these animals prove to be too much and are surrendered to shelters after the holidays are over. Christmas is a busy time and can be quite stressful. People are coming and going, new toys are beeping and spinning, and daily routines are nowhere to be found. This can create a recipe for disaster for the new furry baby that has been added.

Puppies and kittens are hard work. They are in brand new surroundings and this can be overwhelming and frightening to them on any day. That anxiety and fear can be amplified during the holidays. There are many animals needing good homes and Christmas can be a great chance for that if the animal is introduced correctly. 

Many shelters, including the Cullman County Animal Shelter, allow people to purchase gift certificates to adopt pets. A certificate with a pet bed, collar, or food bowls can be purchased. The recipient can then be part of the adoption process which is very important in finding the right compatibility. This is a great alternative for families who have discussed and agreed to add a pet to the family. 

Many people search for puppies and kittens at the last minute due to not wanting the pet before Christmas morning. This can be very risky if you have not met the pet or have confirmation through your vet that the pet is healthy. Abrupt changes can be stressful on babies and the last thing most want to deal with on Christmas is a puppy or kitten with upset tummies, parasites or other illnesses. Keep in mind, vet offices aren’t open on Christmas and can have less availability throughout Christmas and New Year. 

It’s also important for kids to understand that animals are not toys. Some parents have explained that Santa does not deliver pets on Christmas morning because he only has toys on the sleigh. Animals are delivered separately to shelters or vets to make sure they are safe and healthy. This gives a family the opportunity to bring a new puppy or kitten in prior to or after Christmas when things are less stressful and when vets, stores and shelters can better assist them with needs and concerns. 

Never give a pet to someone who is not aware or has not consented. Pet ownership is a long-term investment that requires planning. Giving an unwanted pet as a gift can have dire consequences and could prevent an animal from having the opportunity of being chosen by a family who has collectively decided to have a pet. Pets can also be very expensive, and the gift can easily overwhelm an unprepared person and create a bad situation for everyone. 

Each year, shelters and rescues see an increase in owner-surrendered animals who have outgrown their baby stages and are no longer receiving the attention they deserve. The same pattern is seen in the weeks following Easter as the novelty of a new bunny wears off.

Pet ownership is a lifetime commitment for the entire family. Starting that journey can be both exciting and difficult. Introducing a new furry baby needs to be done carefully and thoughtfully. Consult your veterinarian for guidance and choose a pet as a family. Shelters allow families to visit with adoptable pets prior to adopting, giving pets and families an opportunity to choose each other. Find rescues and shelters with foster programs. Foster homes can provide valuable insight on an animal’s personality, likes, dislikes and abilities. 

Christy Perry was a foster provider for the Cullman County Animal Shelter from 2005-2014. She also served as the foster and adoption coordinator for the shelter from 2009-2014.
At the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, she was an adoption counselor from 2014-2017 and an intake specialist from 2015-2017. Perry has been featured in numerous publications, including the HBO documentary “One Nation Under Dog” in 2011.

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