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Out With Your Dog: Don’t gift pets this holiday season

Caitlin Row
Free Press Pet Columnist
crow@gjfreepress.com

ARE YOU READY FOR A PET?

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?

If you rent your residence, will a pet be allowed?

What happens if you rent a residence and you’re forced to move?

SOURCE: Free Press, 2012

Editor’s note: “Out with your dog” is a monthly pet-friendly column, in which Free Press writer Caitlin Row discusses the many facets of loving and caring for family pets. Have a topic you’d like discussed? Want to weigh in? Email crow@gjfreepress.com.

Adopting a pet on cuteness factor alone, especially as holiday or birthday gifts, is a disaster waiting to happen. So before you gift this Christmas, stop and think — “Is a puppy or kitten a good idea for under the tree?” The answer is likely “No.”



Local animal shelters — like Roice-Hurst Humane Society and CLAWS (Cats League Assistance of the Western Slope) — discourage pet gifting as a rule, especially if it’s for a friend or relative outside one’s immediate family.

That’s because dogs and cats, as well as other pets like rabbits and hamsters, are huge (though fun) obligations and need constant attention for years. Dogs often live well past 10 years, and cats have been known to live two decades. Plus, medical bills, food and general pet upkeep have significant costs. (For instance, a standard vet visit for inoculations often costs around $100; if there’s an illness, it’s even more.)



According to Roice-Hurst shelter manager Judy Bowes, puppies and kittens are more likely to be given as gifts, rather than adult animals. But, in four to six months, the animal becomes full grown and needs a lot of care and training.

“Unfortunately, too often, once the novelty and ‘cuteness’ has worn off, the ‘gift’ may be resented and the reality and responsibility of caring for a pet becomes a burden,” she wrote in an email. “Most animals surrendered to shelters are between the ages of eight months to 1.5 years old.”

Adopting a pet to teach a child responsibility can have pitfalls, too.

“Unfortunately, even though children can help out, pets require adult caretakers,” Bowes continued. “Young children typically do not have the self-discipline or attention span to provide for the daily needs of a pet on a consistent basis. Older kids are usually involved with friends, school, and social activities. Too often, the dog gets relegated to the backyard with an occasional pat on the head or the cat is left to roam the neighborhood, subject to the dangers of predators and cars.”

If you are thinking about adopting a family pet, it’s recommended that everyone understand the commitment being made before the animal comes home. An adoption plan for a dog, cat, pot-bellied pig or hamster needs to be made ahead of time, and everyone involved — including children — need to be on board with the responsibility.

Impulsive pet purchases, as gifts or otherwise, often result in neglect, re-homing or a pet being relinquished to an animal shelter. And it’s not just hard for the family giving up the pet. The animal is put through major pain and stress from the separation, too.

Instead of purchasing a pet as a gift, Bowes gives this suggestion: “If you know your friend or family member is considering a pet, give books or videos on pet selection, care and training. Give a gift certificate for the adoption fee. This will allow the adopter some time to decide the type of pet they want and the best time to adopt.”

WANT TO DONATE?

The Free Press office, 145 N. Fourth St., is currently collecting items for CLAWS and Roice-Hurst Humane Society.

For Roice-Hurst, supplies needed include dog food (Pedigree and Purina brands), pill pockets, dog collars (small and medium), dry cat food (all-ages Purina brand), non-clumping cat litter, bleach, laundry soap, and paper towels.

For CLAWS, supplies needed include canned cat food (Friskies brand), Cat litter (any brand), PetSmart and Petco gift cards, postage stamps, Lysol spray, bleach, paper towels, Clorox wipes, and disinfectant cleaner.

The Free Press is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


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