So, it’s Christmas, hurrah! Unfortunately that also means it’s time to start dashing round over-crowded, over-heated shopping centres with what seems like the entire population of this sceptred isle desperately trying to find the ‘ideal thing’ for relatives you never liked much in the first place, then giving up and buying bath salts on a three for two offer. Then it hits you, the perfect gift! A pet! Who can resist a small bundle of fluff and you will be in the good books forever! No! Bad idea!
The Dog’s Trust’s slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ is over 30 years old and yet it is as relevant today as it was back then. Sadly, many people still buy animals as gifts at this time of year (it’s not just dogs) and although I am sure many go on to be adored family pets, many are given up in the New Year. Most charities report a spike in abandonments in January and many close for rehoming over the Christmas period to discourage impulse rescues.
If you are buying a pet as a gift, at any time of year, you have to make sure the recipient really wants one and has thought carefully about their care. Which, to be honest, rather defeats the point of it being a surprise and I think this is the part (the absolutely, flipping VITAL part!) that the gifter forgets. Dogs are probably the most labour intensive pet; they need walking, training (puppy poo on the carpet is never fun to clean up but is especially annoying on Christmas day when you have so much else to do) and most will live for at least ten years. They also need a lot of stuff; beds, collars, bowls etc – are you going to buy all that as well, or just dump the pup and run? All animals, from cats to rats and all inbetween, have to come with accessories, need a committed and knowledgeable owner and don’t forget you are signing them up for on-going costs; food, flea treatment and, of course, the dreaded vets bills! Will you be covering these as well, you generous present giver you?!
Also, think about it from the animals point of view. Whether they are an adult rescue pet or, more likely, an innocent, wide eyed (so cute!) baby animal, they are coming into a new home and environment which is stressful at the best of times. Now add in a huge sparkling tree, decorations, relatives, over-excited children and it is hardly a calm and relaxing introduction to their new family. A new pet should be the focus of attention in their first few days but this does NOT mean being manhandled by every visitor though the door and dressed in a festive outfit!
Look, I am all in favour of people owning pets (it keeps in me a job after-all) but I am more in favour of those animals being owned by people who really want them, who thought long and hard about having them and who can afford them. It may be that they were bought as a gift but, and this is an important distinction, not as a surprise. So, step away from the pet shop, put down the phone to the breeder, shut down rescue website and just give them the flipping bath salts!