Considering Giving a Pet as a Holiday Present? Consider Again!

By Alexandra Beane — December 17, 2012

With the holidays near, it may seem like a good idea to give a pet as a gift. Even if you think you know the person you’re buying for very well, there are far too many reasons that adopting a pet for someone else is a bad idea.

You should NEVER surprise someone with a pet – whether it’s a child, another family member, or a friend. Every pet should be entering their forever home when they are adopted. Animals have feelings, too. Imagine yourself being brought from one house to the next. Nobody wants to be passed around from one person to another, and this goes for pets, too. Many gifts can be returned, but an animal should be a permanent member of the family.

Moving around is very traumatizing for an animal and causes them great stress and sadness. Plus, imagine how disappointing it would be for the pet to realize they were being returned to the shelter they came from. They are so happy and excited that they are going home, only to be returned after somebody either gets tired of them, or realizes they don’t have the time or patience to have a pet. Plus, many people don’t know that they have an allergy to a pet until they have one in the house.

Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility. People need to be ready for it, and be prepared for a lifetime commitment. Imagine somebody giving you something that you knew you would need to care for their entire life. You would want this to be your decision  – not someone else’s.

Never give a pet to someone else’s child. That needs to be a decision made by the family, and not by someone outside the household – no matter how close you may be to them. Giving a pet to your own child can also be a bad idea, unless you are prepared to share in and potentially take primary responsibility for the pet’s care. Children tend to want pets badly until they learn how much work they actually are. If they end up not caring for the pet, the animal will feel neglected or abandoned. Many children, especially young ones, are not aware of how to hold an animal or treat one. Animals can be harmed severely or even die because of improper treatment. Never leave a child alone with an animal until you are comfortable that both of them know how to interact with one another. The consequences can truly be tragic.

Adopting a pet is not something to be taken lightly  – it’s a lifetime commitment, like deciding to become a parent. Adopting a pet requires time, money, space, and patience. It requires more than just providing the animal with a house to live in, so please consider this when deciding to give someone the gift of a pet this holiday season.

If an adult specifically asks you to adopt a pet for them, discuss the possibilities and the pros and cons with them. Make sure that they are fully aware of the responsibility and even talk to them about fostering a pet first to make sure they’re ready for it. Fostering a pet is a great way to find out if you are ready to take on the full responsibility of adopting a pet. To learn more about fostering a pet, please visit or Fostering can be very rewarding because you’re helping rescued animals adjust to living in a home, learning good habits, and possibly learning how to be around people of both genders, children, and other animals – all of which will make them more adoptable. But unless you eventually adopt the pet yourself, you have to be emotionally prepared to give the animal up to someone else. Additionally, many rescue organizations require foster parents to bring their animals to adoption events, or to meet a prospective adopter. Just know the responsibilities that being a foster pet parent entails before you do it.

If someone asks you to get them a pet for the holidays, tell them that you’ll be happy to take them and their family to a local shelter or rescue group, but the decision needs to be theirs. Many rescue groups require that the entire family, possibly including other pets, come in choose an animal. After all, you’re choosing a new family member, and everyone needs to be  able to get along. If you want the animal to be a “gift,” you can pay whatever fees may be required, and/or buy them a gift card to a local pet supply store to help out with all of the initial things that the new pet will need.

Although there’s never a bad time to save a life, the holidays may not the best time to do it, particularly if your home is going to be a whirlwind of activities, visitors, and holiday decorations and gifts for your new pet to get into. Maybe you can give a homemade gift certificate to get an animal a few weeks after the holidays. Too many animals who were “gifts” end up in the animal shelters after the holidays, and they will need homes. If you do get one during the holidays, it’s a good idea to set aside a safe, comfortable place in the house where your new family member can go if it all gets to be too much. We all need some alone time during the holidays.

It’s important not to get a pet based on what kind of dog was in the latest animal movie. Ask the chihuahuas who ended up in shelters after Legally Blonde, and the dalmations who suffered the same fate after 101 Dalmations. Dogs in movies and TV shows are professionally trained. Don’t expect the same behavior from your new pet!

If you have family or friends visiting for the holidays, and they adopt an animal while they’re with you, make sure that they take into consideration how they are going to get their animal back home. If they are flying or taking the train, the journey will likely be stressful for an animal who has already just undergone a big life change. The same with a long car trip. If they are driving home, make sure that there is room in the car for them, and that the animal will have a secure car seat or harness.

It goes without saying – always adopt from an animal shelter or reputable rescue group that gets animals from local shelters. Buying from a breeder (even if it’s the neighbor down the street who breeds their dog) or from a pet store encourages more unwanted animals to be bred, both by individuals, and even worse, puppy mills.

Adopting a pet is very exciting if you’re ready for it, but you shouldn’t make that decision for someone else.


Courtesy Image: Alexandra Beane and

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