Pet adoptions during the holidays—the pros and cons

Delta (R) and Jeff (L) are up for adoption at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (Photos from

CULLMAN, Ala. – Gifting adopted pets for Christmas can often be a wonderful and creative idea for the holidays. However, though some people would be excited to receive a pet for Christmas, others may be unprepared. Some adoption shelters are of the opinion that pets are irresponsible presents because a person who is unprepared to care for an animal may end up returning it to the shelter soon after Christmas is over.

The ASPCA conducted a research study and published an article in 2013 that states, “Policies that state pets should not be adopted as gifts are prevalent at animal welfare organizations, despite the fact that this belief is unfounded. Denying adopters who intend to give the animals as gifts may unnecessarily impede the overarching goal of increasing adoptions of pets from our nations’ shelter system. We found that receiving a dog or cat as a gift was not associated with impact on self-perceived love/attachment, or whether the dog or cat was still in the home. These results suggest there is no increased risk of relinquishment for dogs and cats received as a gift.”

However, the ASPCA recommends the giving of pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and the ability to care for it responsibly.

Giving pets as gifts is often romanticized, and makes for a Christmas morning filled with delight, but taking care of pets is a long-term commitment for which the recipient needs to be ready. If going to a young child under 12, the ASPCA recommends that the parents of the child should be prepared to care for the pet if the child fails to do so.

Coming from a viewpoint of opposition, PETA on the other hand does not recommend giving pets as gifts. Cats and dogs require a 10-20 year financial and emotional commitment. A statement from their website says, “Costs can add up quickly, not only for food but also for vet visits and emergency care when the dog swallows a sock, or the cat takes a few bites from a toxic houseplant. Is the recipient a busy person? If so, a regular pet sitter and/or dog-walker may be needed. Forbes estimates that the cost of caring for a cat will be ‘at least $780 a year and $16,800 over [the cat’s] possible 15-year existence.’ For a larger dog, it estimates a price tag of ‘$1,570 a year and, over a 12-year lifetime, [total costs] ranging from $22,025 to upwards of $82,929 for folks using dog walkers.’ Forbes’ high estimate for a small dog is even pricier.”

PETA and the ASPCA recommend gifting dog or cat toys or a bed in addition to a gift certificate for the adoption fee at a local animal shelter. This way, the recipient can pick the pet they have the best attachment to and would prefer to take care of.

Two hundred and thirty shelters across the U.S. and Canada are reducing prices for the holiday season this year as part of the BISSELL Pet Foundation’s “Empty the Shelters-Holiday Hope” campaign from Dec. 6 – 20. The foundation will sponsor pet adoption fees, reducing them to $25 or less. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society will be participating in the event from December 7 – 11.

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