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Yes, It’s Okay to Give Pets as Gifts

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 11:30am
adoptable dog

By ASPCA President and 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.

And know, yes, they can make wonderful gifts.

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Ron

I don't agree with you. The pets that I've witnessed being given as gifts ALL turned out in the return of the pet or giving it away months down the road. Unless the recipient is intent on getting a pet and is prepared for the gift, an unexpected surprise of a kitten or puppy is nice at first, but almost always is brought back or given away in a short period of time.

Lena

I dissagree. A pet is a long year responsibility - financially, time-consuming, physical, psychical... Even if you give a pet to a pet-loving human, who definitely wants a pet in his hife: They have to fit together. That's not always given in case of a surprise-gift! Better go for a voucher and make an event out of visiting the shelter.

cantrelle

I agree with you Lena, the pet already has the best gift ever , having a loving home.

Heather

They are reporting what the findings of the studies were. So if you are trying to argue that those findings are inaccurate, you have to show where their methods or analyses were wrong. Otherwise, they've shown your view to be a misconception.

Marc

The study found only about 200 people who had received pets as gifts. That's a pretty small sample. And of those, almost a quarter reported that the pets had been rehomed or died. That doesn't sound like anything to celebrate.

Laurie

Pets are not items. Or objects. Or gifts. They are living beings. Sad day for the Animal Welfare community to sink so low. I can't imagine what would happen if people had to actually wait until the day after Christmas and take the time to go pick up a pet themselves.

Brianna

I agree pets are living beings they do deserve a gift as well as humans do.

Kimber

Seasons greeting Laurie,

I was completely wrapped up in all the opinions regarding pets as gifts. It truly concerns me that so many believe in giving pets as gifts. The gesture alone is a wonderful thought. However not everyone sees the entire picture, and for some, the "novelty" does wear-off. That is not a bad thing, however, this is the reason we need to be the voice of all these animals. They have no idea why they are caged, tied up outside, dropped off anywhere, abused, or best of all loved, talked to, hugged, kissed, etc.. it goes on and on.
If the act of Gift giving appeals to any one, then if they properly discuss it and it is agreed between the giver and receiver, then YES it is a beautiful thing.
Unfortunately, way too many people go about this incorrectly.
I could never give a pet as a gift. I see each and everyone of my own pets as children , they are family to our whole family . My dogs all think they are human and belong and are included in everything we do each and everyday. It is a beautiful vision. So, like you , if I had to make the decision , of course, NO they are not to be "gifted" to others. So many of us do not see the harm. I donate much of my spare time in shelters and screening others considering pets, dogs, cats birds, lizards, it goes on and on. I always make it a point to advised those unsure of adopting or gifting an animal. They are a gift to our world just as we would welcome a child. They breathe, like us, they love, touch, feel , most of all, they have hearts they too get sad, happy, and they also can feel pain, they do not understand when they are abandoned , or beaten, or locked up or locked out. They bleed and heal. But most of all, they don't ever understand why and that's where gifting them, is unacceptable. This happens way too often and I see it more than I ever wanted to. On a good note, I have had people light-up and realize, WOW, this is not a good idea. Others , may shed a tear of happiness and make adopt and have a life long new family member. I truly believe deep in my heart the people need to choose their pet themselves, and wait for the feeling , a connection, at the end of a day like that. I go home and hug my own, bathe , feed them ,love them ,keep them warm, cool , dry, etc...and I can sleep well. Knowing that I had an impact on someone's decision in the best way. Pet adoption and even fostering is truly a rewarding heart warming experience ,.If that can happen at either shelter , at least once a week, then I've helped them all. It isn't always a happy ending, and that's where it hurts deeply. Most usually make the correct decision for themselves and they pet in question. We cannot save everyone , but at least I know we've all done our part.

Laurie, thank you for being you, a voice for them too , just passing on the THANK YOU , that was given to me , Have a pet filled happy new year too.

Kimber
LV NV

Miriam

I agree. Got my little brother a cat for Christmas and he has never loved it more. Been a full year and he's learned so much from her and has been something we have all learned from. We just needed a right time to give him one and it wasn't a gift, it was a companion.

Alesia

I will be giving my donations to a different animal welfare organization this year.

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