Imagine: A couple gets a puppy for their kids for Christmas, thinking it would be an easy way for the children to learn responsibility and add a member to the family. Then, three weeks later, that same puppy is in the animal shelter after having an accident on the family room carpet. That story is unfortunately not an uncommon outcome for animals given during the holiday time. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter animal shelters in the United States annually. Purchasing a pet, no matter what time of year, is a major commitment—and one which should not be taken lightly. As long as proper research is done and everyone involved in the purchasing of a pet for Christmas is willing and capable of taking adequate care of the pet, I think it is okay for parents to gift pets as Christmas gifts. However, there are too many instances during the holidays where gifted pets are not the right option.
Those caveats, however, are non-negotiable. If parents do not do the proper research and ensure that they will be able to care for their pet and provide a good life for it, the animal will suffer neglect or will not get the proper care it needs to thrive. I understand that most of the time, Christmas presents are meant to be surprises for those receiving them; However, I think it is equally important for the child or person receiving the pet to do the appropriate research before the pet is purchased in order to be totally prepared to care for a living thing. Some things that need to be considered before purchasing a pet include understanding the pet’s food, housing, shelter, grooming and veterinarian needs, as well as the family or person’s ability to provide those, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA also says that people need to consider if they will be away for work or travel frequently, and how they will provide care for their pets in that absence—Pets can not be treated as a simple gift that is only special during Christmas, people must consider the long-term plans of owning an animal.
When pets are given to children, especially young children, as Christmas gifts, the child will rarely be the primary caretaker of the animal. Most of the time, the parents will actually be the ones who need to take care of the animal. While this is not problematic if the parents are willing to do this, it kind of defeats the purpose of gifting the animal to a child. Training pets and taking care of them day-to-day is a huge time commitment that most children will not be able to give.
According to the non-profit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, owning a pet is also a huge financial burden, which children obviously cannot be expected to shoulder. Owning a cat costs approximately $780 per year according to PETA, and owning a larger dog costs approximately $1,570 per year. So while the original purchase of an animal may not be a huge expense, owning a pet will cost way more over their lifespan than the original purchase.
When families are not prepared or willing to make the commitment that it takes to own a pet, the animals that they purchase can end up put in shelters or simply abandoned. According to PETA, many cities see a large uptick in animals being brought into shelters after the holidays because people could not care for them. During the holiday season, three animals are abandoned every hour, according to The Independent. Even worse, when animals are abandoned and brought into shelters at higher rates, a lot of shelters have no choice but to euthanize them because of the limited capacity. It is irresponsible of families to adopt a pet for Christmas, or in general, if they are not fully committed to giving the pet a good and happy life.
Overall, buying a pet as a Christmas gift is not an inherently bad idea. However, those purchasing the animal must be fully prepared to take care of it for the entirety of its life—not just during the holiday season. Besides, a plush dog or cat is way easier to care for, and will keep a kid’s attention just as well.