I debated long and hard on this subject because you see, I do what I am going to tell you not to do.
When I tell you not to give a pet as a present, I mean it. I truly believe with every fiber of my being that pets do not make good presents as a rule.
But every rule has an exception. Not that I am the exception to every rule, but in this case, I am. The exception to this rule is that if you are an adult who will be caring for the pet that will be gifted and are accepting that role, then by all means gift that pet because you know that pet will be cared for, by you.
The only pets I give as gifts are to my immediate family members who reside in my home. As the mother in my house, y’all know I end up overseeing the majority of the care for everything here — pets included.
Why don’t pets make good gifts? For children, the answer is obvious. Not all children are responsible enough for a pet. Think of the daily requirements needed to care for a pet, even a goldfish in a bowl requires daily upkeep.
The most common pet gifted on Christmas is a puppy and the daily care needed for a puppy is exhausting. Obedience training, feeding, cleaning up after, house training, crate training, feeding, cleaning up after, repeat, repeat and repeat. Well, you get the picture.
When Christmas break is over and school starts again, will the puppy be forgotten or just the chores?
What about giving pets as gifts to an adult? If you’re dating someone and they ask for a pet, just say no. I don’t know when this started or why, but several years ago it was popular to give a live animal as a friendship gift.
I don’t know about y’all, but when I was dating, jewelry was fine and I didn’t need to feed it.
In rescue, there is a cycle to the shelters.
During the holidays, we receive calls for older dogs being dumped because families got puppies and they don’t want an old dog anymore.
In February, we get calls for puppies because all those Christmas puppies that didn’t house train themselves find their way to the shelter because six weeks is about all the accidents the families can handle before calling it quits on their Christmas puppy.
If you’ve got your heart set on a Christmas pet, make smart choices. Choose a pet as a family; choose a breed that fits your family not the first cute one you see. If your family enjoys being couch potatoes, don’t get a Labrador or Jack Russell terrier.
Do your research. Even on mixed breeds in shelters you can make smart choices. Remember that picking a slightly older than 8-week-old puppy might give you a better chance at house training. There are lots of puppies in shelters that are several months old that will pick up new skills quickly and be ready to give you love just like a younger puppy would.
Think before you gift this year. With record numbers of animals being euthanized in shelters and rescues overflowing, choosing to adopt a new family member is awesome. But only if your entire family is ready for that responsibility.
Kathryn Leisinger is the “Dean of Wags” for the School of Wags, a nonprofit large dog rescue organization.