For families who love animals, getting a pet for the holidays seems like the perfect gift.
But is it? It’s not a simple yes or no, but with the right guidance, it could be.
Shelters like WAGS Pet Adoption in Westminster (wagspetadoption.org) are in constant need of good homes for dogs, cats, rabbits and even the occasional bird, lizard, guinea pig, hamster or turtle. A recent estimate by Director of Operations Cortney Dorney is that they have about 50 dogs, 185 cats/kittens and a little more than 100 rabbits in need of good homes.
But despite that, WAGS is trying to find the right home—not just any home. To that end, Dorney took some time from puppy, kitten and bunny wrangling to offer some advice on the best way to gift a pet during the holidays.
Is it a good idea to give a pet as a surprise holiday gift?
“In general, no. Giving animals as gifts to other adults without them getting a chance to participate in the deciding portion almost never ends up well. What you think they want or need is not usually what they want or need.”
When is it appropriate?
“We feel it is never appropriate to surprise another adult with a pet as a gift. When do we think it’s appropriate? When you are surprising your kids as part of a family pet. We love the holiday time adoptions when they are [a] surprise for the kids and when all of the parents involved come into the shelter to select the best fit for their family.”
What are some do’s and don’ts related to pets as holiday gifts?
“Do communicate to the shelter staff what you are looking for in a pet. Large, small, active, non-shedding, good with other dogs, kids, etc. Do understand that shelter staff is only looking out for the pet’s/adopter’s interests. Shelter staff want to ensure that the adoption is successful and permanent. Your idea of the ideal pet may not be what is actually appropriate for your lifestyle. Do your research. Find out what will work for your home/family. Do make sure that you have all of your pet supplies ready to go.
“Don’t adopt without the other adults’ consent. They might not want one, or be able to afford the care of one. Don’t get a pet as a gift on a whim. A lot of thought should be given when adding a pet to any household. Don’t forget to check with your housing to ensure that a pet is allowed.”
Is giving puppies or kittens as holiday gifts for small children a good idea?
“We don’t have a problem adopting puppies and kittens to families with young kids. As long as the children are respectful and are taught to understand that they need to be gentle. We feel that it is a great experience for a child to grow up in a pet household.”
What is the ideal way to adopt a pet during the holidays?
“Bring the whole family down. Come in when you are ready to take the pet home. It’s difficult for shelters to board the new pet until you are ready for it. Most need to open up the kennel space ASAP. Make sure that you are bringing your new pet home when you are going to be home to help with the transition process. Don’t bring a new pet into your home when you are about to have a big holiday party, or when you are going to be out of town for a few days and the neighbor is going to watch it. You need to be there to acclimate the new pet into your routine/schedule, plus you need bonding time. Definitely make sure that your house is pet-proofed before bringing it home as well. Many holiday items—plants, foods, etc.—are toxic to pets.”
By Jessica Peralta
Photo above: When this photo was taken in November, Gargamel was 14 weeks old. He’s a border collie/akita mix and was found outside a laundromat in Westminster with a wound on his leg that was painful to walk on. But after some TLC from WAGS staff, he’s doing just fine and ready for adoption.