Kathy Powelson: Why gifting pets as holiday presents is just plain wrong

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      As the holiday season quickly approaches, many of us seek to find that perfect gift for someone special. This Christmas, if you or someone you know is considering buying a pet from a pet store or online as a gift, we ask that you stop and think about the consequences for that animal.

      You are not gifting a toy or new fragrance; you are gifting a life which brings responsibility and a lifestyle change.

      Gifting a living creature to someone you love has much greater implications than the purchase of an inanimate object, such as a diamond ring or the latest Elmo doll. When the novelty of the gift wears off, the pet cannot be stuffed away in a closet or drawer, and will continue to need daily care and attention.

      And while some may feel small animals, like hamsters, live relatively short lives and no harm is done if it’s disposed of a few years early, one only need step into the shoes of volunteers for animal rescue groups such as Small Animal Rescue Society. They are overwhelmed with emails from parents wanting to surrender their small animal purchased as gift for their child who unfortunately no longer has any interest in caring for it.

      And what if that gift is a cat or a dog? They can live up to 20 years. That’s a pretty heavy responsibility to put on a kid; for an adult it means a major lifestyle change.

      The holiday season is also such a hectic time of year and, even with all its joy and cheer, can make for a very stressful environment, making it the worst possible occasion to bring a new pet into your home. Animals dealing with this type of stressful transition face the threat of long term suffering and potential trust issues.

      The dark side to the cute puppy in window

      And where does this pet come from? For those thinking of buying a new animal, a pet store or online shopping site might seem like the most convenient option but animals bred for retail sale are bred in misery. Every year, hundreds of animals are sold irresponsibly and without any care to their well-being. Many suffer from serious behaviour issues and often times traumatic health problems. So that cute puppy in the window you purchased on sale for $1,200 could end up costing tens of thousands more in vet bills and cause you tremendous heartache. Consequently, too many of these animals end up abandoned and surrendered to an already over-burdened animal rescue system.


      Volunteers at Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) offer great advice to those wanting to gift a pet for Christmas. For example, instead of purchasing the kitten (or other animal) for Christmas Day, give your loved one an IOU that covers the adoption fee. After the holidays are over, your loved one can start the task of finding the perfect companion. For children, this can provide a valuable lesson on the significant responsibility involved in having a pet in the family, and will show them the care and attention that should go in to selecting a pet.

      To many of us, a home is not complete without a pet, but while there are many animals in need of a home, Christmas is not a good time for them to be taken in. When you do get a chance to introduce the right pet to your family, remember to adopt, don’t shop! For more information on the animal welfare issues associated with the retail sale of pets, and the humane alternatives visit www.petsarenotproducts.com.