Three Reasons Pets Make Bad Gifts

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Thinking of giving a pet as a gift? Here are three reasons why you might want to think again.

(Note: the dog Stacy’s holding in this story is Lola, a lab mix he and his girlfriend recently rescued from people who were breeding her as bait for pit bull-fighting. She’s adorable, tons of fun…and has thus far chewed up pretty much everything in their house!)  

Cute, cuddly, fluffy, friendly… there are lots of reasons why people think of pets when they’re thinking of gift ideas.  But pets don’t really make the best gifts, especially surprise gifts.  Why?

1. Problems with returns

Say you give someone a new hat.  You like it.  And you’re sure they’ll like it too.  And when they open it, they smile, say thank you, and seem really happy about receiving it.  But in reality, that hat better include a gift receipt ’cause it’s going back to the store first thing in the morning. Or perhaps in the back of a closet, never to be seen again (except perhaps when you come over to visit.)  Now imagine that hat is a puppy…

When you give someone a pet, you’re giving them something that’s going to be alive (hopefully) for a long, long time.  An animal needs food, love and attention. And if that’s too much to ask of the recipient? That pet gets returned to a place like an animal shelter, where the clock that could end its life starts ticking. You don’t want that on your conscience and neither does the person who recieved that animal.  A pet is a gift that requires a lot commitment, so it’s one that requires a lot of thought before you agree to take (or give) that kind of responsibility.

2. The gift that keeps on eating

As great as it sounds to get a puppy for the holidays, finding out that puppy comes with a $40,000 bill might dampen the experience.  According to, the typical 50 pound dog can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $40,000 for food and medical care over its life.

If you told me you were giving me a several-thousand-dollar bill for the holidays, you wouldn’t be invited to my party.

3. There’s a much better way

Like most things in life, there’s always a better way.  Check with your local shelter to see if they have adoption certificates.  Think of it is a gift card for the pet you wanted to give.  The person you’re giving it to can go down the shelter and find the pet that’s perfect for them… one they’ll love, but can also afford. And they can take their time both picking out their pet and arranging how it will be cared for.

Do you have a pet gift horror story?  Let me know about it in the comment box below.

Stacy Johnson

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