In 1996, Disney released a live-action version of it’s 1961 classic movie, 101 Dalmations. Viewers everywhere swooned over the adorable spotted puppies and cursed the villain, Cruella de Vil. One of our technicians was a high school student at the time, working at a pet store that did grooming. The owner had a 4 year old nephew that became immediately obsessed with the movie. It was All Dalmations, All The Time.
His father, thinking he would give his son the present of a life time, surprised him with a Dalmation puppy for Christmas, that was promptly named Perdy.
Not surprisingly, the new addition to the family didn’t go well. They were unprepared for the extra work of training a puppy, and the energetic breed was too much for the small child in the household. Perdy the puppy went to live with an aunt who had the time to train and exercise her and everyone lived happily ever after.
Not all such situations end happily though. Countless numbers of cats and dogs end up in shelters because of a mismatch between them and their previous owners.
If you are considering giving a pet as a gift this holiday season, consider these points first.
Does the recipient actually want a pet? If you aren’t sure, ask! Better to ask and ruin the surprise, then to surprise a person with something they don’t actually want.
Who will care for the pet? If the recipient is a child, and you are not physically in the household and prepared to take over care duties, ask the child’s parent or guardian first. No matter how strong the intention for the pet to be “Katie’s kitten” or “Danny’s dog,” care for the animal ultimately lands on the adults in the household. If you ARE the adult in the household, don’t set all the responsibility for care on the child. It’s easy to find stories of people who ended up grudgingly caring for an animal that was meant to be for someone else. If you aren’t willing to scoop cat boxes, train a puppy, clean a cage or aquarium, or walk a dog in bad weather, find another gift idea, one that isn’t alive.
Is the pet a good match for the recipient? As previously mentioned, many perfectly wonderful animals end up in shelters because they weren’t a good match for the person that adopted them. Perhaps the owner didn’t anticipate the costs for pet care, or fell into the trap of adopting because the animal was cute, without considering long term changes in lifestyle. Make sure the person receiving the gift isn’t allergic, afraid, or physically incapable of caring for the animal. A pet should never be adopted on impulse, but should be done after much thought.
Can the recipient afford a pet? As the gift giver, you should pay any adoption fees required by a shelter, or the cost of a pet from a breeder. If giving a pocket pet, such as a hamster or gerbil, you should also provide a cage and the basic supplies needed for the pet’s habitat. But beyond these costs, can the person receiving the pet afford to pay for food, vet care, training, etc? Check out this Pet Care Cost Calculator from the ASPCA.
Are you willing to take the pet back and either care for it yourself or find it a good home should it not work out with the recipient? If you aren’t, or are unable to, consider finding another gift to give.
The official position of the ASPCA is that pets should only be given as gifts to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and are able to provide the care it needs.