Top 5 Reasons You Should Never Give an Animal as a Gift by Claire Pethick, Animal Care Assistant

Sometimes it can be so tempting to give an animal to a friend or family member as a gift. With so many pets out in the world needing homes, it can be difficult to resist giving such a cute and loveable animal to someone you love. It may seem like a great idea to begin with – as pet lovers it’s hard for us to understand why anyone wouldn’t want to have a fuzzy (or hairless) one at home. But not everyone is appreciative of such a gift which can backfire on the gift-givers good intentions. Over this holiday season, keep in mind that pets or any animal should not be used as a gift and here’s why:

1. Children and their “toys”

What could give a child more joy than something they can play with and that will play back with them? The biggest downfall with giving a child a living animal as a gift is that they may end up viewing animals as being their toys, like a “living beany baby”. Often with younger children who have never had a pet before, they may not completely understand that animals have their own sets of feelings. The result may end up being too rough when handling the animal. Smaller animals such a chicks, hamsters, and even kittens commonly receive injuries of broken bones or death from playing with children who aren’t yet mature enough to have a pet.

 2. Unexpected Costs

Let’s face it – pets cost money. From vet bills, to pet food, and all the toys, beds, cages, litter boxes, leashes… the list goes on and on. The recipient may not purchase the pet themselves but they definitely will pay for that animal over its lifetime which could become a very negative situation. Surprising someone with a long-term investment isn’t something they will likely be jumping for joy over. Once the novelty of a new pet wears off, they may feel like they have been left with a financial burden – a very cute one! But still unexpected nonetheless.

3. Pet Stores and Puppy Mills

During the holiday season especially, many pets are purchased from pet stores or puppy mills since they are easily available. By purchasing these animals, you are in turn supporting the unethical treatment of animals forced into repeated breeding. When you walk away with a puppy, you are unknowingly leaving that puppy’s poor mother behind to suffer through the birthing of multiple litters until she is too old to be bred when she will be disposed of. Doesn’t sound very festive does it?

 4. Bad Matches

Most pet owners have adoption stories of “I knew he was the one” or “I felt such a connection to him” and these are the owners who will also tell you that they have the strongest bonds between them and their pet. It is almost impossible (though it can happen by fluke) for an outsider of the family to pick out a pet that will effortlessly join their family and develop strong bonds with each of the family members. If the animal you chose for them ends up being a bad match, chances are they will find a shelter or another home for that animal to join.

5. Unfortunate Endings

Many of the animals gifted during the holiday season find themselves in small cages at local shelters or humane societies. The increased number of animals the shelters find themselves dealing with put great strains on their resources of space, food, employees, etc. Unfortunately, some shelters cannot offer a No Kill policy, so when space becomes slim they may find themselves having to humanely euthanize some of the animals that have been at their facility for too long. Other shelters that do offer a No Kill policy often find themselves with animals that have been in the shelter for months and months without finding a home. This is particularly difficult for dogs and cats who are used to having the freedom to roam a larger space than a kennel.

To sum up: poorly-matched pets to families all lead down a terrible path to the local shelter, and the continuous purchasing of puppies from puppy mills only profits and propels the puppy mills. None of this is a happy situation for anyone involved – especially the animals themselves. If you would like to help animals during the holiday season, think about making a donation of money or food items towards a local shelter such as the Toronto Humane Society. If you know of a family that has children that you would like to give a pet to, talk it out first with the parents and let them make the crucial decisions. This way everyone can have an enjoyable holiday season!