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Why animals do not make good Christmas gifts

/ 12:36 AM December 19, 2015

An animal can be a wonderful addition to a family, but not when he or she is presented as a gift to an unsuspecting recipient during one of the most chaotic times of the year. Here are some reasons why:

Animals can’t simply be “re-gifted.” An embarrassing Christmas hat from Ate Edna, a useless gadget, or a tacky tie is easy enough to return, re-gift, or forget. But animals are living, breathing, feeling beings who can’t be re-gifted if they don’t suit a person’s fancy.

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A pet is for life, not just for Christmas. Sure, that kitten or puppy might look cute peeking out of a red stocking on Christmas morning, but adding an animal companion to the family is an important decision that requires making a lifetime commitment to care for him or her. Remember: A puppy or kitten could be a part of the family for 15 years or longer.

Animals aren’t like other gifts. They require lots of time, patience and money—all of which are scarce during the holidays. If you’re thinking about giving a furry friend as a gift this Christmas, stick to the kind found in toy shops.

Worst. Gift. Ever. Cute puppies won’t seem like much of a present after they chew up a priceless heirloom, decide to use the Christmas tree as a toilet, bark through the night, and rack up thousands of pesos in vet bills on vaccinations, neutering, and flea and deworming treatments. And that’s just when they’re healthy!

It’s a stressful time of year. With the tasks of hosting house guests and cooking up a storm, or travelling to touch base with family, the holidays can get pretty hectic—making it tough for even a well-adjusted animal to settle into his or her new home.

It contributes to animal homelessness. In the days, weeks and months following the holidays, already overwhelmed animal shelters across the country will be swamped with animals that were given as gifts, only to be tossed out along with the Christmas tree when the novelty wears off, or when their guardians discover that caring for rambunctious puppies and kittens is a full-time job. Government-run city pounds have no choice but to catch these strays and put them down if they are unclaimed after a certain period.

According to the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), an average of 200 dogs are euthanized every week at city pounds in the Philippines.

The consequences are dreadful. Many animal shelters reach capacity within the first few weeks of the new year, when the tidal wave of surrendered animals hits. Shelter workers are left to face the heartbreaking prospect of having to euthanize healthy, friendly, loving cats and dogs because of lack of space and resources to care for them. PAWS receives an average of five calls or e-mails a day from people who want to dump their pets. The PAWS Animal Shelter, a limited-admission facility which takes in animals who are victims of cruelty, is filled to capacity, with almost 200 cats and over 30 dogs. It can no longer accommodate the sheer number of animals that are abandoned by humans every day.

Many children are irresponsible (because, well, they’re children). It’s great to teach kids about responsibility, but after the puppy love wears off (and it often does very quickly), parents are the ones who are left to do the dirty work—literally!

Animals can put serious pressure on the wallet. The food, toys, vaccinations and vet bills can quickly add up. Don’t give someone the gift of debt.

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Animals are not “one size fits all.” All puppies, kittens, rabbits and birds look cute—but that doesn’t mean they will be compatible with your loved one’s activity level, experience and personality. For this reason, it’s important that the animal is suitable for the lifestyle and temperament of the person who will be responsible for him or her.

If your loved one is prepared to make a lifelong commitment to a furry dependent and has plenty of time, money, patience and love to give, consider giving a handmade “gift certificate” for an animal from a local shelter. In that way, the recipient can decide which animal is best for him or her—and when. Plus, you’ll be giving more than the gift of unconditional love and companionship: You’ll also be giving the gift of life to a homeless animal.

Jana Sevilla is the senior cruelty case officer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Asia). To get involved with its work in the Philippines, visit PETAAsia.com or call 817-5292.

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