ASPCA: It’s Okay to Give Pets as Gifts. Really.

Just in time for the busiest gift-giving season of the year, new ASPCA research finds pets given as gifts are just as likely to be loved and treasured
December 12, 2013

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today released findings from its latest research study, which busts a major myth about giving pets as gifts, potentially saving more homeless animals’ lives in the process.

It has been a long-held belief by many in the animal world that shelters should not allow adoptions by those looking to give the pet as a gift during the holidays or otherwise. The overwhelming concern was that the pet would be at a higher risk of being returned to the shelter. But in its latest research study, the ASPCA found that 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet. Additionally, 86 percent of the pets referred to in the study are still in the home.

Furthermore, the survey revealed no difference in the recipient’s attachment to that pet based on whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance. This new data adds to previous research studies conducted in the 1990s and 2000 (Patronek, 1996; Scarlett, 1999; New, 1999; New 2000), which found that pets acquired as gifts are less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired by an individual adopter.

“This has been a very controversial topic for the public and the sheltering world alike, but we're hoping to put an end to this misconception before the holiday season,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of Shelter Research & Development for the ASPCA. “Keeping all their normal application protocols and processes in place, shelters should feel confident enough in the supporting data to give it a try in their facilities. These are exciting findings that can help open new adoption options for shelters, allowing more animals to be placed in loving homes.”

Americans have a long tradition of giving pets – usually puppies or kittens – as gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, holidays or graduation, but debate over how this practice could impact the animal’s welfare has drummed up considerable controversy. While some shelters have been allowing the adoption of pets as gifts for years, the stigma remains in the public consciousness, driving some customers away from shelters and unfortunately toward inhumane sources including pet stores, online or backyard breeders.

If you’re thinking about bringing a pet into a friend or loved one’s home – or your own – this holiday season, please make pet adoption your first option.  You can find adoptable pets in your area by visiting and searching for the shelter or rescue group nearest you.