Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Giving Pets as Presents Is a Holiday No-No

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Giving Pets as Presents Is a Holiday No-No

Article excerpt

CONSIDERING A KITTEN for the kids at Christmas? Or perhaps a puppy placed beneath your tree?

If so, The Tail End has two pieces of advice.

First, open your home to a homeless pet from your local animal shelter. Second, wait until after the holidays to do it. "Don't give pets as presents" is a song that's sung year-round by humane societies and responsible pet breeders, and it's probably safe to say that most potential pet owners know the words. But strange things can happen during the holiday-shopping frenzy. "You'd be surprised how many people decide that a puppy or a kitten is a great last-minute gift," says Sharon Turner of the Open Door Animal Sanctuary in House Springs. Even those who have given the idea some thought and have heard all the arguments against it show up at shelters just before Christmas to pick up a puppy. "People tell us, `But I want to put it in a box and see the wonder in my child's eyes when he opens the present,' " says Carmen Skelly, director of the St. Charles Humane Society's Pet Adoption Center. "But what about the puppy? Children go from one package to the next so quickly, the new pet can get lost in the shuffle." "People need to think of the animal as they would a child," says Katherine McGowan at the Humane Society of Missouri. "You wouldn't put a child in a Christmas stocking and hang it over the fireplace, would you?" Even under ideal circumstances, Skelly says, a change in the environment can be stressful to an animal, just as it can be with people. To be plunked down in the middle of all the holiday hustle and bustle can be extremely upsetting for a puppy or kitten - and cause the kind of problems that result in a high return rate of "unmanageable" pets about March. Animals like routine, McGowan says. And during the holidays, normal routines are interrupted. That makes introducing a pet a bad idea for both parties." Skelly concedes that there sometimes can be exceptions, as in the case of an older couple, for example, or someone who wants to take advantage of time off during the holidays to bond with a new pet and get a start on training. …

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