Giving Pets as Gifts

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If you are considering giving a pet as a gift, think again! Experts agree that pets should never be purchased impulsively and should never be given as gifts.

The decision to own a pet should be made by the prospective pet owner. Owning a pet carries similar responsibilities to having a child. Families should research, prepare and educate themselves, and when the time is right, choose a pet that complements their lifestyle. Breed traits that may be appealing to one person may not suit the lifestyle of another. Remember pets are not inanimate objects they become members of the family.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Even if you are convinced that your recipient would enjoy the company of a pet, the decision is not yours to make. Many families do not have the time, desire or finances to care for a pet over the long term. The new pet owner may enjoy the animal at first, but actually resent the gift once the novelty has worn off. Puppies, for instance, need a lot of care. They cannot be properly house-trained if left alone all day during the regular work hours kept by most adults.

Considerations for Giving a Pet as a Gift

  • When considering giving a pet as a gift to a family, remember that it is the adult in the household who will be ultimately responsible for the pet, not the children. The adult must be willing to accept this responsibility and be willing to care for a pet for the next 15 years or so, which may well be long after the children have left home. The decision to bring a pet into a family should be a family decision, not a surprise gift.
  • Owning a pet can be a huge financial and time commitment. Puppies command constant supervision and must be confined when they cannot be watched to prevent destruction and accidents. Ideally, before bringing a pet home, the prospective pet owners should have shopped for pet care supplies, pet food, and a crate or a pet bed. And, a safe place for the pet to exercise, sometimes necessitating a fenced yard, should have been considered. A veterinarian must be chosen and the cost of regular pet care included in the family budget.
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    The holidays can trigger spur of the moment decisions to surprise children with pets as gifts. To be fair to the pet, holidays are not the best time to introduce an animal into a new environment with all of the activity. Small animals are already stressed enough with leaving it's parents and littermates. Also the holidays do not allow for time to properly care for a new pet. Most animal shelters estimate that 50% of the pets that are adopted at the holidays end up in shelters.
  • Parents make the mistake of thinking their child will learn responsibility if he or she is given the gift of a pet. The reality is that kids have short attention spans. In many cases, they lose interest in their pets abandoning their responsibilities. Many times pets are taken to shelters or given away simply because families didn’t realize how much care an animal actually requires.
  • Some friends or family members try to replace a deceased pet with another in an attempt to ease suffering. While their intentions may be good, the recipient may not be emotionally ready for another pet and feel they must decline the gift. They must first mourn the loss of their deceased pet. Many times, the death of a pet releases the owner from responsibilities and they choose to enjoy time without being tied-down.

Alternatives to Giving Pets as Gifts

If someone is looking to get a pet there are many other gift ideas. Give them a gift certificate for later adoption of a pet, offering to cover the cost of adoption. You can also get them books on specific breeds or mixed breeds that will help them make a decision about the breed of the animal. You can also give children books on responsible ownership of a pet. If you know someone whose pet of choice may be a little more unusual, there are lots of books and references that can be given as gifts for the prospective exotic pet owner.

In short, the best advice from experts on giving pets as gifts, is - don't! However, giving gifts to someone's pet is perfectly acceptable. With pets increasingly being recognized as a member of the family, not giving a gift to the family pet on their birthday would be like not giving a gift to the son or daughter on their birthday.

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