Things to consider before making a pet a present

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

"While it's a great vision of a puppy with a bow or a kitten in a basket, the holidays are the worst time to bring a new animal into your home," said NAFA's Wannda Turner.

New animals need lots of attention and time--something many people may not have a lot of,  especially during the holidays.  Turner says adding a pet to the mix could add to an already stressful time.

"That animal is going to pick up on that stress so what happens is that animal picks up bad habits, and you don't have time to work on those habits," said Turner.

Experts say shelters estimate that 50 percent of holiday gift animals eventually end up in shelters--when people realize these little pets are very big responsibilities.  Animal activists hope by educating people about the responsibility of pet ownership, fewer pets will be taken to shelters after the holidays.

"Holiday pets almost always do not last more than 6 months in the home where they're given," said Turner.

"There's no such thing as a free puppy.   There's no such thing as a free cat," said Nell Koehler.

At the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society, Nell Koehler says she stresses that to people who come into the shelter wanting to give a pet for a gift.

"We're doing extensive interviews with people...where do you live? What do you do? What is your background? What vet are you going to take it to," said Koehler.

Koehler says she hopes that will make people  think about the responsibility that goes along with having a pet.

"If you want to adopt an animal that's fine, but you do not adopt one as a Christmas present," said Koehler.

She says it's just not a present, it's a lifetime commitment.

Experts say those thinking about giving pets for Christmas need to consider items including:

How much will the food and care cost?

Is the animal compatible with the family and their lifestyle?

Who will be the animal's primary caretaker.

Wannda Turner says if you do want to give a gift and pets are in the plans for the new year,  consider wrapping up an item that indicates a pet is on the way when things slow down.

"You can take them around to places until they find the animal that they particularly want.   Then it's a true gift," said Turner.

Both Wannda Turner and Nell Koehler say pet adoptions are a wonderful thing, but it has to be the right time and to the right person or family.

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