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Adopting a pet for Christmas? Make sure it doesn’t end up back in the shelter

Shelters are overflowing with surrendered pets. Ensure yours doesn’t join the mix

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Erika Bennett, a kennel attendant/animal control officer at OC Animal Care, holds up a puppy for brothers Ryan Wartenberg, left, and Jason Wartenberg, as they look into adopting a pet at the shelter in Orange Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)


If you’re hoping to surprise your family with a pet this holiday season, think again about whether you’re ready to take on that responsibility.

To adopt a pet is to grow your family, and your newest family member should be cared for as such, not as a split second decision.

Much like children, your pets need constant care while they’re with you. Unlike your children, they will not reach a day in their lives when they do not need you. Depending on the animal, you could be looking at a 10 to 20-year commitment, and in some cases your pet could live beyond 20.

In order to properly prepare for pet ownership there are a few important variables to consider:

  • Do you have an adequate environment for your pet? By this, I mean your pet should thrive in the space you already have. If you live in a small apartment with no access to a yard or fenced area, it may not be the best idea to adopt an active dog. Similarly, if you have children it would be wise to research animals that children can either care for easily or that will get along well with children.
  • Can you match your temperament with your potential pet’s? All pets require different temperaments, but it’s up to you to choose a pet that best fits your lifestyle and family dynamic. For instance, it would not be prudent to adopt a pet that depends on your presence or has separation problems if you’ll be away from home most of the day.
  • Is everyone in your household on board with pet ownership? Caring for an animal is a commitment that should not be taken lightly, so if there is anybody in the household who will be caring for the pet is not committed, you should rethink your decision.
  • Can you afford a pet? Between food, toys, pet sitters, potential daycares and vet visits, some people find themselves in over their heads when it comes to the financial side of owning a pet. This can be especially difficult when living and work situations change, per Fox 13.

When ill-equipped but well-meaning people decide to adopt a pet without careful consideration of their ability to commit, these animals often wind up in shelters.

According to Fox 13, pet activists are advising people to reconsider adopting a pet unless you’re absolutely ready for that commitment, as shelters are overflowing with pets that owners decide they cannot care for.

For that reason, it’s also the first place you should go to adopt a pet. By adopting, you ensure that there is enough space in shelters for other animals ,and you give your new furry friend a second shot at a good life.

Adding a pet to your family is a monumental decision for you and the animal. In making that commitment, it’s important to get everyone in your household prepared. If you’re doing it as a Christmas gift for someone in your family, it should not be a surprise. Get them involved as early as possible and prepare them for the responsibilities they will take on.

In an interview with People Magazine, Deb Fair, the executive director of the PEDIGREE Foundation, recommended that prospective pet adopters, “Consider reaching out to local animal shelters or rescue organizations for their guidance if you’re interested in gifting a pet. Some may recommend gifting a pet-themed gift basket and then coming back after the holidays to choose the individual pet instead of adopting a pet for the recipient.”

She added, “You could also consider surprising the recipient with an outing to the shelter or rescue to help find an adoptable pet that matches that’s right for them.”