GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Though a furry puppy or kitten delivered with a bow may seem like a charming and thoughtful holiday gift, local animal shelters and adoption agencies discourage pet gifting as a rule.
"You have to understand that (adopting a pet) is a very long commitment," Ashley Digrado, a Roice-Hurst Humane Society staffer, said. "Dogs (and cats) can live up to 18, 19 years old sometimes."
So - for someone to adopt an animal for a friend or relative who's not in their immediate family - that's a huge mistake, Digrado said. Everyone involved in a pet adoption must be present and knowledgeable of the commitment being made, and they must understand every aspect of caring for that pet - from the time commitment to medical costs and everything in between.
"We don't adopt out animals as holiday gifts," Digrado said. "If we do that, the animal is most likely going to come back to the shelter. We need to talk to the person receiving an animal, especially puppies."
CLAWS co-founder Kim Lindsey said her cat-only adoption nonprofit in Grand Junction doesn't adopt felines out as Christmas gifts, either.
A thorough adoption plan by a family ready to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet will definitely be considered, however.
For example, two parents who come to look at dogs, with their children in tow, over multiple visits (during the holidays or any other time of the year) are more likely to have a successful, well-planned pet adoption. Someone trying to adopt a cat for their sister's son as a Christmas present will likely be turned away, however.
"It's a big responsibility to have an animal," Digrado said, and folks interested in adopting a pet must prove they are up to the task.
Thus, animal shelter employees ask prospective adoptive families the following types of questions: Are they ready for a dog or cat? Are they aware of the medical care and costs required of having a pet? What will the rules be for having a pet in the home? Will an exercise plan be put in place for a new dog? Are there other financial issues to be considered before adopting a pet? And, if you rent your residence, will a pet be allowed? What happens if you rent a residence and you're forced to move?
According to Mesa County Animal Services Director Penny McCarty, pet relinquishments often happen after impulsive pet purchases. But, they can also happen if a pet owner can't afford their animal's medical care or when children go away to college.
"Any time someone impulsively purchases or takes a pet, the chances of it being successful diminishes," McCarty said. "Well-thought-out decisions lead to successful adoptions."
Plus, returning a pet doesn't just cause stress for an unprepared family. Not providing the proper home for a family pet causes pain and stress for the animal as well.
"Pets are a huge obligations," McCarty said. "They are demanding and they need care. We need to be able to provide that for them."