Just because animals look cute under the Christmas tree doesn’t mean they make good holiday gifts. Caring for animals is an enormous responsibility, and they should never be carelessly given as gifts to anyone. Many people who receive animals as gifts find that they’re unable to make the lifelong commitment to caring for their new animal companion, no matter how much they’d like to make it work. Animals deserve the best lives possible, but being given as a gift will make that outcome less likely.
These PETA holiday ads highlight some of the many reasons why you should never give animals as presents:
1. A child’s attention span may be better suited to a stuffed animal.
Animal shelters are filled beyond capacity with homeless animals, many of whom were former “pets”—all because a child lost interest and no one else stepped in and took the time to provide training and care. Dogs need outdoor exercise every single day, and a huge time investment is required to train (and housetrain) a puppy—children are not mature enough to handle this responsibility.
2. Many people don’t want an animal for Christmas.
Has the person expressed an interest in adopting an animal? What type and species of animal would be a good fit? (For example, a well-mannered adult dog or a middle-aged lap cat is often a better fit than a high-energy puppy or kitten.) If a family decides to adopt an animal, every member of the family should go to the local animal shelter together to choose the animal after having discussed the obligations and long-term commitments involved. If you give an animal as a gift, there’s a good chance that the recipient never wanted an animal in the first place, which could result in neglectful treatment.
3. You may also be giving the “gift” of debt.
Does the person have the space, time, and money to care for an animal? (Caring for an animal companion requires a lifelong commitment, which could go on for over 20 years.) Costs can add up quickly, not only for food but also for vet visits and emergency care when the dog swallows a sock or the cat takes a few bites from a toxic houseplant. Is the recipient a busy person? If so, a regular pet sitter and/or dog-walker may be needed. Forbes estimates that the cost of caring for a cat will be “at least $780 a year and $16,800 over [the cat’s] possible 15-year existence.” For a larger dog, it estimates a price tag of “$1,570 a year and, over a 12-year lifetime, [total costs] ranging from $22,025 to upwards of $82,929 for folks using dog walkers.” Forbes’ high estimate for a small dog is even pricier!
4. You don’t have a crystal ball.
No one knows what the future holds. Are there any foreseeable life changes that could make caring for an animal difficult? (And what about the unforeseeable ones?) For example, some people don’t realize that they are allergic to animals until the animal is already in their care. Many people will leave their animal companion at a crowded shelter, or they’ll pass the animal on to a series of homes, which can lead to behavioral problems and cause trauma and psychological scarring.
A lot can change over the years that could affect a person’s ability to provide proper care for an animal.
5. What to gift someone who is truly ready to care for an animal companion.
If you know someone who really wants an animal companion and is ready for the responsibility, how about giving a gift certificate for the adoption fee at the local animal shelter? Wrap up a food dish and some toys to give along with the gift certificate and put them under the tree. Or you could buy a dog bed or cat carrier and wrap it up with a stuffed animal and the gift certificate. After the holidays, you can all go down to the shelter together and pick out an animal companion who’s just right for the recipient.
What You Can Do
Please adopt only from animal shelters and never buy an animal from a pet store or breeder. And don’t forget to have all your animal companions spayed or neutered.