We are in the midst of another holiday season. Many of us are wondering what kind of gift we want to give our friends and family members. Gifts come in many forms. Some gifts are intangible, such as a charitable gift in the donee’s name, or shares of stock in a corporation. Most, however, are tangible gifts and merchandise – “a thing that is perceptible by touch.”
One kind of “gift” we often see given – typically to children – is a fluffy animal. We often see images in the media of a child opening a gift and out jumps a fluffy kitten, puppy, rabbit, or some other animal. Then, we see the child squealing in pure delight. (Click on the photo for a short description of Gary’s story.)
What the media doesn’t show the public is what often happens to the cute, cuddly, fluffy animal after the excitement wears off. You can’t exchange, throw away or toss aside a pet – or so we would like to believe. According to The Dodo:
While many shelters report an increase in adoptions leading up to the holiday season (whether due to people wanting to give the gift of an animal or just feeling more generous in spirit during this period), many more report an increase in abandonment in the weeks after. All over the world shelters are swamped with dogs and cats being returned by owners who weren’t fully prepared for raising an animal. Sadly, abandoned pets in shelters are often euthanized.
Pets are not stuffed animals. They are not inanimate objects. They are living, breathing, sentient beings. As such, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with having a pet, requiring a lot of time and attention that you (or your child) must be prepared to give. Pets need to be fed daily, trained, exercised and taken to the veterinarian on a regular basis.
Many people who give pets as gifts without thinking it through carefully fail to consider that animals possess many of the same higher-level emotions as human beings do, such as love and devotion. Just when they feel they are part of the family, but the novelty of the furry critter wears off on the part of the family, too often, they are summarily ignored, tossed aside, thrown out, or dumped at the shelter. So the love and devotion the pets felt being part of a family are replaced with deep depression, utter sadness and despair.
Animal rescue advocates then rush to try and pick up the pieces of irresponsible “gift giving.” Unfortunately, they can’t all be saved. Many suffer from horrible neglect that any effort to save them would merely prolong their misery and the inevitable. PETA provides other reasons why giving pets as gifts is not a good idea in its article, “Why Animal Do Not Make Good Gifts.”
If, after careful consideration, you feel your family is ready to take on the responsibility of a pet, the entire family should visit the shelter and interact with a variety of potential pets to determine which one will best fit their lifestyle. The decision should be made as a family unit and not just by one person who – on a misguided whim – decides to wrap a furry baby critter in a box. [fn1]
The bottom line is choosing to give a pet as a gift to your friend or a member of your family should not be an impulse decision. Do your homework. Discuss the possibility of bringing a pet into the home with your family (or friend’s family). One does not “own” a pet. One makes a pet a part of one’s family, which is a lifetime commitment, ranging from about 15 to 20 years.
fn1 – Putting a live animal in a box and wrapping the box is very dangerous to the pet (even with holes in it), as it could lead to suffocation. It is also a very terrifying experience to the pet.