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Giving Pets As Gifts: Grand Gesture or Recipe For Disaster?

A puppy for Christmas may sound cute, but is giving pets as gifts really a good idea?

It happens in RomComs. We see it in children's movies and books. One lucky family member gets a new puppy underneath the Christmas tree or for their birthday, it solves everything, and everyone lives happily ever after. Giving pets as gifts during the holiday season is romanticized in popular culture. Unfortunately, that is not always reality. A new pet is a huge responsibility, no matter if it is a cat or a dog. While it may make for many happy faces on Christmas morning, you have to remember that being a pet owner is a lot of work and comes with a lifetime commitment.

Should You Give Pets As Gifts?

giving pets as gifts

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Pets have been given as gifts since the dawn of time. (Well, maybe not that long, but pretty close.) Rulers often gifted pets to one another when they first took the thrown. Foreign leaders have gifted exotic animals to sitting presidents, and rulers once used to send gifts to the new pope after he was elected. According to BBC, in 1513, King Manuel I of Portugal gave Pope Loe X a white elephant when he was elected. These days, gifting exotic animals has become passé, and now leaders stick to giving one another cats and dogs.

But, when it comes to giving a new animal to a loved one, the tradition spans many years, too. However, there are many things to consider before making someone the caregiver of a new pet. If the recipient has been talking non-stop about getting an animal as an adult, then getting them a dog or cat through an animal shelter or responsible breeder may be okay. But, they will need to be prepared to care for the pet for at least 12-15 years, which is the average lifespan for an average-size dog.

The ASPCA recommends that if the animal companion is going to a forever home where the child is under 12 years of age, the parents are going to have to be prepared to assume the position of pet parent and handle all of the house training, vaccinations, pet food, and pet care that comes along with adopting an animal. The ASPCA also stresses that if you choose to give a new furry family member as a holiday gift, you should get them from a trusted source like a rescue organization, local animal shelter, or a breeder.

PETA firmly believes that pets should not be given as gifts, ever — Pets are not just a gift, but they are a new family member. Depending on their breed and size, they come with a 10-20 year commitment. Some cats can even like past 20. PETA argues that while it may look cute to stick a puppy in a box under the tree, it's a bad idea as you do not know how the situation will turn out. Kids may be better suited for a stuffed animal as a gift under the tree, then decide to get a pet as a family when you know the kids are ready for the responsibility, or you as the parent have the time and financial ability to care for the pet.

The Humane Society has a little different outlook on the situation. They believe that you should not give a pet as a surprise gift. Instead, pick out the pet together to ensure it fits the new pet parent's lifestyle and personality. The shelter can also vet the new owner and make sure the animals are in good homes. The gift-giver can pay for the adoption fee or give a gift certificate for a later date if the right pet for their household is not immediately found. It also allows them to get everything they need to ensure the new pet's transition goes smoothly.

Have you given or received a pet as a gift? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page. 

READ MORE: 2021 Holiday Gifts to Surprise Your Favorite Dog and Cat Lovers