It's finally December, the time when Christmas lights are strung everywhere and fake snow is caked onto every surface. People are giddy with the thought of purchasing their friends and family the best gifts and receiving some in return. However, this is a different sort of time for animal shelters and rescues. Not only do people adopt more pets, but they give up more as well.
Many, if not all, shelters report seeing a large spike in surrendered animals just before the holidays, most likely families "trading in" their old pet for a brand new Christmas puppy or kitten.
An exerp from the huffpost.com reads, "The Washington Humane Society is overrun with pets who have been given up by their owners just before the holidays — 26 dogs were brought to the D.C. shelter within 48 hours alone last week.
'Unfortunately we see spikes like this each year around the holidays,' WHS spokesperson ChristieLyn Diller told HuffPost. 'We took in an equally high number last year at the same time.'"
As an animal lover and a person who has a strong bond with all of my pets, it's unfathomable to me that people will so easily trade in their "old" pets for a newer model, as though they're an outdated car or an obsolete phone. Pets should not be treated as objects. They're living beings that depend soley on their humans for everything from food to exercise.
Along with extra adoptions during Christmas time, gifted pets cause more pet surrenders later in the year. Most pets are gifted to children, and those children are expected to be their sole caretakers. Once the child gets bored or can't keep up with the task of providing care for the animal, the adults of the house tend to just see the pet as a burden that takes up time and space, and they're rehomed, surrendered to animal shelters, or just abandoned.
Millions of animals are surrendered to shelters. Approximately 55% of dogs and puppies and 71% of cats and kittens are euthanized annually due to health problems or simply overcrowding in shelters in America alone, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy - Shelter Statistics Survey.
If you are going to adopt an animal, whether it be for you or for someone else, you need to be sure that the person is responsible enough and financially able to care for a pet.
It's recommended that you spend at least 4-6 hours or more on both a puppy or a matured dog. They aren't just a house decoration that you can set on a shelf and forget. Along with the time consumption, raising an animal is a hefty investment. The ASPCA estimates that with proper food and medical care, along with other pet supplies you may need, you can expect to spend an upwards of $1,314 on a small dog, $1,580 on a medium sized dog, $1,843 on a large dog, and $1,035 on a cat all in their first year. The only payment you get in return is companionship and loyalty from your pet, but unfortunately that isn't enough for most people.
Animals have emotions just as people do. Imagine being placed into a cage surrounded by strangers always looking at you and the other strange animals in cages around you. You've been trapped there for so long. You don't understand what's happening. You can't understand what the strangers are saying, or why they're oohing and ahing and touching you through the bars. You're terrified. You're alone. You're in a shelter. One day, someone comes and rescues you from your unjust prison. You're taken to a warm house with smiling children. You're finally fed and bathed and you get to play! But slowly you notice your new family starting to drift from you. The children no longer want to play. The adults no longer want to tolerate you. Before you know it, you're back in a cage, surrounded again by strangers. Either you'll get lucky and be adopted by a family who will actually care about you, or you'll be put to sleep far too early for your time. That is the life of many of these shelter animals being adopted as cute "gifts".
If you're still considering getting someone a pet as a Christmas gift, do in depth research before getting the animal. Each pet is different. Make sure to look up breeds and their different requirements, proper care, and be sure to only give them to someone who you know will be a good fit. It's also always best to rescue an animal from a shelter, as they face a higher risk of being euthanized if they don't find a home in an allotted time. But most importantly, remember that they aren't just pets, they're family. Treat them as such.