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Animals as Holiday Gifts

Jacque Lynn Schultz, ASPCA Director of Special Projects


With the mails awash in holiday cards depicting kittens in Christmas stockings and puppies popping out of festively wrapped packages, its little wonder people seize on pets as the “perfect holiday gift” for their loved ones, but before purchasing a wiggling bundle of fur, feathers or fins, individuals should stop to consider if giving a living being during the chaos of the holiday season is the ultimate gift or the ultimate nightmare.

The acquisition of an animal companion should be thought out carefully. Unless you play an integral role within the family, you wont know what kind of animal would fit in best. A family meeting should be held so that all members can openly express their likes and dislikes regarding pets. In addition, discussing who will to take on what chores ahead of time will make things easier in the long run.

Research on proper care and necessary equipment can be done at a local library or via the Internet. What may have initially sounded ideal a parrot for instance may be scaled back to an animal such as a cockatiel or budgie that is less expensive to maintain and/or less demanding to keep. Puppies and kittens are always adorable, but an older animal might be easier to incorporate into a busy household in which both adults work.

On a more philosophical level, should a living creature ever be given as a gift? Does it belittle the animal, reducing him or her to a mere possession like a doll or puppet that can be bought and sold, and passed on from one individual to another as a token of their consideration or affection? Shelters, rescuers and even some breeders refer to placing animals in homes as adopting them out. The adoptee becomes a member of the family, rather than a possession obtained through the reception of a gift.

If the first two concerns have not dissuaded you, I might suggest that you rethink your timing.

Introducing a new animal into a household during the tumultuous holiday season is an invitation for trouble. Homes are bedecked with poisonous plants, lit candles and fragile decorations, all of which are decidedly not pet-friendly. In addition, routines are set aside in favor of rounds of parties, visiting relatives and vacations.

Is there really time for housebreaking a new puppy or conducting the water tests necessary to set up a new aquarium? In most households, the answer would be a resounding “no.”

If you truly have your heart set on sharing the gift of love and laughter a companion animal can provide this holiday season, discuss the idea beforehand with all adults involved. If they agree that your gift would be welcome and well cared for, wrap up a stand-in for the live animal in the form of a plush toy or specialized pet care book attached to an IOU to place under the tree. Once the holiday craziness is over, you can then escort the family to the shelter to select their new best friend.

2001 Animal News Center, Inc.

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