Under the Christmas tree and into the kennel

Animals are often purchased as gifts and later abandoned at shelters.

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Under the Christmas tree and into the kennel

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As the holidays kick into gear, children dream of presents, and parents scramble to shop for gifts. For many children, the ideal present is an adorable kitten or a tiny puppy. This romanticized view of animals often leads people, particularly parents, to purchase a pet when they are not prepared to care for it.

“People who have not had dogs before, or have not had dogs since they were themselves children…often are unaware of how much work it takes to raise a puppy from infancy into a good adult canine companion,” said Ruth Ginzberg of Pet Rescue, an organization that advocates for animals.

Rescue groups and animal shelters warn parents against making impulsive decisions regarding animals. Groups like Austin Pet Alive, a no-kill shelter, regulate holiday adoptions to allow a pet to be gifted only within immediate families.

The RSPCA estimates that three pets are abandoned every hour during the holiday season. The organization urges parents to think responsibly about the lesser-known aspects of owning a pet in order to protect as many animals as possible. Owning a pet can cost around $1,000 per year, not accounting for the adoption costs. Vet bills and any vaccinations increase this cost, which often leads to pets being dumped in shelters. In addition, owning a pet can be difficult for those who are prone to travel or work long hours.

The most commonly cited reason for people giving up puppies or kittens is their destructive behavior. Training is essential to raising a pet, and without it, animals are more likely to create problems. Usually, when parents adopt pets, they expect the animals to be well trained and can be overwhelmed by misbehavior.

In addition to Christmas, shelters report an increased number of bunnies that are dumped after Easter. American Humane Association warns against gifting rabbits because they require very particular living conditions. Allowing small children to handle them can break the animals’ fragile bones and lead to fatal injuries. When parents dump rabbits, they often must be euthanized because of a lack of permanent homes.

Parents must think carefully before gifting pets in order to protect innocent, young animals from a cycle of abandonment.

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