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No Pets as Presents at Christmas

As the holidays approach, a reminder: Never purchase a pet for someone else – whether it’s a close relative or an even closer friend.

By Nomi Berger

With the approach of the holidays, everyone’s thoughts turn naturally to the happy chore of gift giving. While most people opt for the tried and true, hoping another gift certificate isn’t too impersonal or another scarf or bottle of perfume isn’t too predictable, they’re much safer choices than those being considered by some this season: the purchase of a pet.

The gift of a dog or puppy is not the same as the gift of a large, stuffed plush toy. More often than not, wrapping a red ribbon and bow around the neck of a living, breathing dog signals only one thing: trouble. Dogs are not toys, and should never be anyone’s holiday surprise. Unlike other holiday purchases, there are no refunds or exchanges on dogs. Only serious, possibly dire consequences. Although the idea of a dog as a gift may sound thoughtful, it is, in reality, thoughtless.

Why? Because the gift of a dog means accepting the responsibility for that dog. It must be more than a well-meant whim, the desire to be different. It must be a carefully considered choice. An informed decision made by everyone involved in what may ultimately be a 10- to 15-year commitment.

Such decisions require homework and due diligence. Research into dog breeds most appropriate for your family, your lifestyle and your environment; house, condo or apartment; fenced yard or no yard. Intelligent questions asked of owners of those particular breeds and of a knowledgeable veterinarian.

Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies? Does everyone even want a dog? Do they understand what it means to share in the training, feeding and raising of a dog? Because adding a dog to your family not only involves time and money, it means providing that same dog with a loving and stable home.

Children should never be presented with a puppy at any time of the year. Typically, they will be charmed by such a furry, little plaything that leaps and yips, squeals and nips, and rolls over onto its back for tummy rubs. For the first few days. Until the novelty wears off and reality sets in. The reality of helping care for their cute, squirming little gift. Puppies are not so cute when they have to be trained to potty outside or walked outdoors in the rain and snow.

Those well-intentioned gift givers – typically parents – will now be that puppy’s full-time caregivers and, sadly, many of them won’t be prepared for this eventuality. The result: one more puppy either abandoned by the side of the road, dropped off at a pound, or surrendered to a shelter. Probably to be euthanized. Neither respectable breeders nor responsible rescue groups will either sell or adopt out a puppy or a dog as a holiday gift. They are all too familiar with the heartbreaking results of such dangerous impulse buys.

Never purchase a puppy or a dog for someone else – whether it’s a close relative or an even closer friend. The same rules apply. Only doubly so. What you consider an act of generosity may, unfortunately, be seen as an imposition. If any of them want a dog, it’s up to them to make that choice. That same, carefully considered choice and intelligent, informed decision.

If you want to make a meaningful gift, consider supporting an animal organization, like RAPS! As an alternative to giving a living being as a gift, consider sponsoring a cat at the RAPS Cat Sanctuary for your child or grandchild. They’ll get a certificate (and you get a tax receipt!) and they can visit “their” cat during visiting hours!

To ensure that your holidays are happy, ensure that your gifts do not include pets.


Nomi Berger is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto with her adopted Maltese, Mini, and has been writing as a volunteer for animal rescue groups in Canada and the U.S.A. since 2013.