SALT LAKE COUNTY (ABC 4 News) – With the holiday season in full swing, you may feel pressured to find the perfect gift for your loved ones. But before you put a dog, cat, or bunny under the Christmas tree, animal advocates advise that a pet might not be the best present.
The bond between animal and human can be profound for some people, but experts say it takes a special connection to form a good match.
“If you choose the actual animal for them, you’re sort of robbing them of that moment of connection – the feeling of, ‘Oh yeah. This is the pet for me,'” said Temma Martin with Best Friends Animal Society.
Some shelters see an uptick in owner-surrendered animals after the holiday season, which can be traumatizing for the pet.
“It is a very stressful thing to bring a pet to a shelter. As much as we like to say we offer great accommodations to pets while they’re here temporarily, it’s still very stressful,” said Deann Shepherd with the Humane Society of Utah. “There’s a lot of new sights and sounds and people coming to see them everyday.”
Depending on the breed, some animals require a lot of physical activity and attention. Before you make the decision to buy a pet for someone, Shepherd advises to asking yourself the following question – Is your family or gift recipient ready to commit to the amount of time required to raise a pet?
“We know puppies and kitties are adorable. But they take a lot of time. It’s almost equivalent to taking a newborn baby home,” said Shepherd.
Martin noted some pets can live between 10 to 20 years, costing thousands of dollars in food, housing, and veterinary care.
“The most important thing to know is it is a lifetime commitment,” said Martin. “Pets are not disposable. Children who have the experience of receiving a pet, getting rid of it, and having their family try again…is really a terrible message to send to children. Pets are part of the family.”
Shepherd said the Humane Society of Utah offers intervention and retention services to pet owners wanting to surrender their animal. But not all shelters offer that option.
“If it comes down to it and it just wasn’t the right fit, we actually prefer that the animal is returned to us so we can find a better home for it,” said Shepherd. “We don’t want someone to be with an animal or the animal be in that home if it’s not the perfect fit for them.”
If you’re on the fence about what to do, advocates said there are other ways to surprise your loved one.
“What we suggest is giving the family that’s looking for a pet all the goodies that go with having a pet – a bed, toys, treats…make a cute basket of all of those things and then give them an adoption gift certificate,” said Martin.
“You can actually foster animals through your local shelter or rescue group. It’s a great way to bring an animal into your home for perhaps weeks to months, at a short term while providing the care for that animal in their home,” said Shepherd.
If you proceed with gifting a pet, both Martin and Shepherd encourage adopting instead of shopping.
“We definitely do encourage them to adopt from a shelter or a rescue group, rather than buying from a breeder or a pet store or an online retailer. You’re literally giving the gift of life to an adopted pet by getting one from a shelter or a rescue group,” said Martin.
“We don’t necessarily discourage people getting animals as gifts. But we do want to have that discussion with them to say that it’s going to be something you have to feed and care for many years after. So make sure you’ve thought that commitment through as a family and you’ve agreed on who’s going to take care of that animal,” said Shepherd.