Sunday, December 15, 2013

No Pets, and No Pits, As Last-Minute Holiday Gifts

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s natural to fret if you still don't know what to get for certain people. A sweater? A gift certificate? Too impersonal? If it crosses your mind to stop by the local pet store or pound or answer that advertisement and pick up a dog to give as a gift, ignore that idea. Even if it feels like the cutest, most loving choice to give a person, whether carefully planned or last minute, dogs should never be given as gifts.  

The gift of a dog or puppy is not the same as the gift of a large, stuffed plush toy, of course. More often than not, wrapping a ribbon and bow around the neck of a living, breathing dog signals only one thing: trouble. Dogs are not toys, and should never be anyone’s holiday surprise. Unlike other holiday purchases, there are rarely refunds or exchanges on dogs. Instead, there are serious, possibly dire consequences. Although the idea of a dog as a gift may sound thoughtful, it is, in reality, thoughtless.

Why? Because the gift of a dog means accepting the responsibility for that dog. It must be more than a well-meant whim. It must be a carefully considered choice—in fact, it should be an informed decision made by all involved, as this may ultimately be a 10- to 15-year commitment. 

Children may at first be charmed by this furry, little plaything that leaps and yips, squeals and turns over onto its back for tummy rubs. But once the novelty wears off and reality of how much work is involved sets in, those well-intentioned gift givers – the parents – will eventually become that puppy’s full-time caregivers. If no one in the household is prepared for the demands of a puppy, the result is likely one more puppy either abandoned by the side of the road, dropped off at a pound or surrendered to a shelter (probably to be euthanized). Neither respectable breeders nor responsible rescue groups will sell or adopt out a dog as a holiday gift. They’re all too familiar with the heartbreaking results of such  dangerous impulse buys.

The decision to bring a dog into the home requires research into dog breeds most appropriate for one’s family, lifestyle and environment. There is no one dog breed that suits all human personalities. The characteristics of one breed may suit one pet owner but not necessarily another. For example, pit bulls are not the right breed for everyone. They are a high-energy breed requiring lots of exercise and lots of commitment to training. Not all dog owners are suited for these requirements.

The choice to get a dog is also a commitment to putting in the time to providing a loving home and covering expenses like dog food and veterinary care—choices that individuals must make for themselves. And although they are gaining in popularity as household pet, pit bulls are a breed subject to a lot of additional restrictions, including exclusion from some homeowner insurance policies and some rental properties.  

Never buy a dog as a gift for another family or friend – no matter how close you are to that person. What you consider an act of generosity could easily be seen as an imposition. If a person want a dog, it’s up to that person to make that choice.

To make certain that your holidays are happy, make certain that your presents do not include a pet.