Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
For years, puppies and kittens have been given as presents for birthdays, holidays, or just as gestures of love. But some shelters, breeders, and more than a few writers frown on the tradition under the unsubstantiated suspicion that someone surprised with such a gift is ill-suited to care for it. The fear is that the animal will be returned like an ugly sweater, or worse, face neglect or abuse.
It’s a frightening thought, but given a number research findings, some as recent as October, the fear is not based in reality. There’s just no proof that giving animals as gifts is not in their best interest. This misconception may not only prevent the movement of shelter animals to potentially loving homes, but also drive potential adopters toward unscrupulous and inhumane sources for pets including pet stores that almost always get their inventory from puppy mills.
In a scientific study conducted earlier this year and published in October, the ASPCA found that 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts reported it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet. Also, 86 percent of the pets in the study are still in the home, a number roughly equivalent with the percentage of pets retained following a routine adoption.
The survey further revealed no difference in attachment based on whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance. This supports previous studies conducted in the 1990s and 2000, which also found that pets acquired as gifts are less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired directly by an individual owner.
ASPCA Vice President of Shelter Research and Development Dr. Emily Weiss, an animal behaviorist who authored some of that research, blogged about the findings:
“Every couple of months, the ‘no pets as gifts’ myth raises its ugly head,” Weiss writes. “Christmas is coming up, birthdays are every day, and dogs and cats in some shelters around the country are missing chances at homes, so it’s time to put this myth to bed.”
Knowing that pet gifting isn’t inherently wrong doesn’t mean you should give a pet to anyone. Pets should only be given as gifts to people with the ability, means and available time to care for one responsibly, and to children under 12 only if parents are ready to take on full responsibility. To help with the transition, Weiss recommends delivering a “starter kit”—bowls, food, toys, a collar, an ID tag, or litter—with the new pet, and encouraging new owners to get their pets licensed.
Also, make sure only to get pets from shelters and responsible breeders, not from pet stores or internet sources.
Concern about animal welfare comes from a good place, but too much fear and not enough information can stand in the way of a life-saving match. Find adoptable pets in your area by visiting www.aspca.org/adopt and searching for the shelter or rescue group nearest you.
Are you ready to put on your stocking cap and take part in a little holiday trivia game? Join our #SantaPaws Holiday Trivia Twitter Party and Giveaway! Along with co-hosts Tails Magazine, The Fluffington Post and Two Little Cavaliers, we’ll test your holiday knowledge on all things reindeer and mistletoe!
Plus, we’ll give away treat-filled holiday gift packs every SIX minutes—and one grand prize winner will receive a sparkling diamond paw pendant by Zales Jewelers! Need a little more icing on the cake? All party guests will receive a secret coupon code for 25% off items in the ASPCA Online Store.
Pour yourself some eggnog, get comfy on the couch and tune in to Twitter from 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. (ET) on December 18! Don’t forget to RSVP here so you’ll be eligible to win prizes!
Every now and then, we come across a special dog in our Adoption Center who just can’t seem to find a home. That’s the case with Spice, a super sweet and social pup who has been waiting a long while to meet his perfect adopter. This holiday season, we’re asking you to help us find a home for Spice!
Spice came to the ASPCA in 2011 after living in squalid conditions in a basement without access to food or water. He was severely underweight, weighing only 32 pounds when he came to the ASPCA Animal Hospital. After being nursed back to health by ASPCA veterinarians and staff, he now weighs 54 pounds!
This sweet dog could not be friendlier. He would thrive in a home with an energetic adopter who’ll take the time to play with him. He already knows Sit, and loves to learn new tricks. Whether you’re looking to add a new furry friend to your household or know a friend who might be willing to give Spice a chance, we’d love to have your help in spreading the word. Please share this flyer on your Facebook, Twitter, blog and other social networks. Together we can find Spice a home for the holidays!
If you live in a teens-and-up household and are interested in adopting this special dog, please call our Adoption Center in New York City at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4120, or come meet Spice in person.
Many pet parents don't realize that pets can also suffer from breast cancer. In veterinary medicine, these tumors are referred to as mammary gland tumors, and are unfortunately one of the most common kinds of cancer in pets.
Cats generally have eight mammary glands, arranged in four pairs. Dogs usually have 10 glands arranged in five pairs, though the number varies with the size of the dog. Mammary gland tumors in dogs and cats can be benign or malignant. In cats, around 90% of mammary gland tumors are malignant. In dogs, approximately 50% are malignant.
How can mammary gland tumors be prevented in dogs and cats?
The most effective way to prevent mammary gland tumors is to have your pet spayed before she ever goes into heat. There is a myth that animals should have one heat cycle (or give birth to one litter) before they are spayed. In fact, dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle are 2,000 times less likely to develop breast cancer! Cats spayed before their first heat are 91% less likely to develop breast cancer than unspayed cats. After just one heat cycle, the risk rises in both dogs and cats.
Detecting mammary gland tumors
Just like in people, performing mammary exams in dogs and cats is very important. Early detection is key. If your dog or cat allows, perform a mammary exam on her once a month. Gently feel the tissue under and around each nipple, "rolling" the tissue between your fingers. Very small mammary tumors often feel like a little BB pellet under the skin. If you feel even a tiny lump or firm area, bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately.
There is evidence that canine mammary tumors can become malignant over time, so prompt removal is essential.
Treatment of mammary gland tumors in pets
The main treatment at this time is surgical removal. Depending on the situation, your pet may need to have the affected mammary gland, several mammary glands, or all the glands on that side of her body removed. The tumor that is removed will be sent to the lab for a biopsy to tell you if it is benign or malignant. If the tumor is malignant, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary oncologist for consultation.
We love to hear happy adoption stories, and we were especially excited recently when adopter Terry G. reported that Kona, one of nearly 100 dogs we rescued from a life of fighting in March 2013, is thriving as a beloved pet in the suburbs of Chicago. We cared for this special pup after assisting in a federal dog fighting raid spanning Texas, Missouri and Kansas, and we’re thrilled that she is finally receiving the love she deserves.
Please take a moment to watch video footage from our multi-state dog fighting raid in March.
Sadly, this wasn’t our only encounter with large-scale dog fighting operations in 2013. In August, at the request of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), we assisted in a multi-state, federal dog fighting raid of an operation throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas. We rescued more than 360 dogs ranging in age from just several days to 10-12 years, who had been left to suffer in extreme heat with no visible fresh water or food. Many were emaciated with scars and wounds consistent with dog fighting, and some were tethered by chains and cables that were attached to cinder blocks and car tires.