Don't buy a pet as a present this holiday season

It’s that time of year where we plan what we’re getting our friends and family members for the holidays. If you’re interested in some gift ideas, you may want to check out my Vegan Holiday Gift Guide 2018. It’s during this time where many people consider getting an animal as a gift, but I have words of caution and reasons as to why you should not buy a pet as a present this holiday season.

Unfit household

Think about Christmas when you were little. It was exciting and busy, with wrapping paper and gifts everywhere! This can be an overwhelming environment for a small puppy learning their environment. Not only will it be scary for them, but it can be the beginning of unfavourable behavioural issues that your puppy can adapt due to being uncomfortable.

You also may be bringing this animal into a home that is not prepared for it. For instance, if you get your niece or nephew a puppy for Christmas, they may not be prepared and have the means to take care of it. This can be physical means such as leashes, identification tags, appropriate food and shots or also simply not being prepared to take care of an animal. Parents love to believe that the addition to a pet in a home will give their children more responsibility, but sometimes this is not the case. They may give them the basic care but not appropriate care for the level of commitment necessary.

A lifetime (or long-time) commitment

When you first get your pet, whether a tiny kitten or a small puppy, they are the most adorable being you’ve ever seen! Sometimes, as they grow, they’re not seen as small and cute anymore. They become loud, big, and in the way. We have to stray away from the idea that giving this cute animal to someone is a good idea, because they might not be prepared for the commitment.

I think about some pets that live for a long time - like cats living almost 20 years or certain birds that can even live up to 75 years old! Simply giving a pet like this to someone may “burden” them with this commitment. We constantly hear about people being “unable” to care for this pets anymore and passing them off to someone else. In my family’s home, we have a hedgehog, a cat and bird from people who decided to give their animals away.

This concept of animals being disposable or us being able to give them away without thinking about it much is problematic. You’re moving? Bring your pet. You’re tired of taking care of them? That’s what you’ve signed up for. Your pet is too expensive? That’s quite an excuse when you know you should know what you’re getting yourself into. About six weeks after Christmas, animal shelters receive an influx of surrenders due to pet parents being “unable” to take care of their animal. If you’re preparing to have a companion animal, you should anticipate every possible outcome and prepare for those situation.

A bad perception

In the same vein as the concept of animals being “disposable” or being able to be given up when they are not what you expected, we teach people that this acceptable. I’ve had several people approach me and ask me to find a home for their pet because I know a lot of animal rights activists, which they believe I then will get their pet a loving home. I typically reciprocate this by trying to identify why they are giving their pet away and make them realize that this is such a bad precedent to have.

When you give a child a pet as a gift, they believe that this behaviour is okay. They might be encouraged to do the same and run into the same issues: not being prepared for care, the high likelihood of the pet not staying in the home and a perpetual idea that this is okay. Teach your children compassion and that they should only take on commitments that they can handle - a pet is a precious life and should not be taken for granted.

Choose a toy instead

At the end of the day, you might be asking: What should I get my child for Christmas then? A toy. That’s it. If you’re getting them a pet for the idea of having something to play with or give responsibility to, do so through a toy that they can take care of. You don’t need to perpetrate this idea upon a living being.

Happy holidays and I hope you consider cruelty-free gift ideas this season. If you’re looking for vegan holiday gift ideas, check out my Vegan Holiday Gift Guide 2018.

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