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To give or not to give

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

By PJ Martin


The Herald-News


Animals are not gifts, they are living breathing souls who require a 10-20-year commitment.

Do you know someone who would love to have a dog or cat and you are thinking about surprising them with one for Christmas? We will look at the pros and cons and see if it is a good idea to gift someone a pet for Christmas.

For example, how many times have you seen a baby duck or rabbit suffer and die after Easter? All because the recipient had no way of taking care of the animal they received as a gift.

Before you gift someone a pet ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the recipient want the responsibility of a pet?

Again, pets are a commitment of 10-20 years or the lifetime of the animal.

  • Do they have a place to house the animal safely?

A person living in a small apartment on the 10th floor doesn’t need a large dog that requires a lot of room for exercise. If they rent, their landlord may prohibit pets.

  • Can they afford the cost of caring for a pet?

Is this person on a fixed income such as Social Security or do they have a low-paying job that barely lets them scrape by? If so, they may not have money for vet bills and pet food.

  • Is their lifestyle a good fit with owning a pet?

Do they travel a lot? Someone with a job requiring lots of overtime or travel may not be home to take care of a pet.

  • Are they physically able to care for a pet?

Does the person have problems with mobility? Are they disabled? Are they elderly? A dog or cat could be a tripping hazard, harm the person unintentionally, or the person may not have the energy to take care of a young animal with lots of energy.

There are of course exceptions. If you are a parent and intend to surprise your child (or spouse) with a dog, cat, or other type of pet, that’s fine. You know the living conditions, the care the animal will receive, and that it is a commitment.

Another thing to consider is timing. If adopting a pet for your own home, think about doing so a few weeks before the holidays. The circumstances would be much less stressful for the animal and your family.

If you wait until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you are subjecting the animal to the stress of all new surroundings, your family, guests, and a lot of noise and excitement. It can be overwhelming and detrimental to the well-being of an animal brought into that situation.

If you decide to get a pet during the holiday season, consider adopting from an animal shelter. Shopping at pet stores is questionable as often their animals are from puppy mills and backyard breeders, thus supporting those who breed without keeping the animals safe and well-maintained. Many times the animals are severely neglected and have illnesses or genetic disorders.

A shelter will let you meet with the animal to see if they are compatible with you and your family. The shelter provides the recommended vaccinations, flea treatments, and they spay and neuter the animals under their care. They can also share medical information (if known) with you about the animal.

According to the ASPCA’s National Rehoming Survey, pet problems are the most common reason that owners rehome their pet, accounting for 47% of rehomed dogs and 42% of rehomed cats. Pet problems were defined as problematic behaviors, aggressive behaviors, grew larger than expected, or health problems owners couldn’t handle.

Many times that cute little puppy grows into a ‘great big dog’ and suddenly ends up at the end of a chain in the backyard where they receive no real attention or care. Others are surrendered to the shelter, because they ‘can’t take care of them anymore,’ or they are moving and pets aren’t allowed. Sadly, many pets are taken to shelters simply because they are old.

Today’s shelters have more than cats and dogs, they have rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, hedgehogs, and some even take in reptiles. These poor animals may have suffered through abuse or abandonment and need time to adjust to a good home with love and attention where they feel safe and are cared for.

If you do adopt a pet be prepared. According to the Humane Society, “Pet ownership costs about $1,500 to $5,000 the first year, and $1,500 to $3,000 a year after that.” This includes annual veterinarian appointments, food, equipment (beds, toys, leashes, etc.), and any training your new companion might need.

These numbers also include spay and neuter fees. It is extremely important to have your pet spayed or neutered to help stop the overpopulation of homeless animals. Some local shelters have reimbursement programs. Metcalfe County is one of those. After you have your pet spayed or neutered, take a copy of your bill to the Judge/Executive’s office and you will receive a $50 reimbursement mailed to you. A family is allowed two reimbursements.

Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.


The ASPCA states these estimates are based in part on shelter animals, count data, and other known and estimated sources, 2019. These are national estimates based on data obtained from shelters and rescues; the figures may vary from state to state.

  • APPA reports that 34% of dogs are purchased from breeders, while 23% of dogs and 31% of cats are obtained from an animal shelter or humane society.
  • Around 27% of cats are acquired as strays, down from 35% in 2012. (Source: APPA)
  • Approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.1 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized (390,000 dogs and 530,000 cats).
  • Approximately 4.1 million shelter animals are adopted each year (2 million dogs and 2.1 million cats).
  • About 810,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 710,000 are dogs and 100,000 are cats.


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