Photo (cc) by jpctalbot
They’re cute, cuddly, and known for their ability to make us happier with their mere presence. So how could any animal be considered a bad surprise gift, especially during the holidays?
Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has three major reasons you shouldn’t ever surprise anyone with a living gift. Watch his video, then read on for other reasons why Fido shouldn’t be on your gift list.
Now I’ll expand on those reasons and add a few more…
1. A return may put a life in danger
You might think that doggie in the window is cute, but will your gift recipient feel the same way? If they don’t, and can’t return it, that animal might end up in a shelter, where it could be euthanized if a new owner doesn’t claim it. According to the Humane Society, around 4 million dogs are euthanized in shelters each year.
2. It’s not a gift – it’s a responsibility
Animals are a gift that keeps on giving, but they also keep on taking. Like children, they require food, doctor’s visits, medicine, toys, and plenty of attention. According to the American Pet Products Association, the average dog owner spends $1,542 annually on basic expenses, while the average cat owner spends $1,217.
Many pet owners also opt for insurance, which can cost hundreds of dollars yearly, as well as behavioral training. Consider the fact that your gift recipient might not have a budget that allows for this level of commitment, in both time and money.
3. It’s long-term
Aside from the financial commitment of pet ownership, there’s a long-term time commitment involved. According to Bruce Fogle, DVM, the author of Caring for Your Dog: The Complete Canine Home Reference, the median life expectancy of dogs is 12.8 years. Life expectancy varies by breed, but smaller breeds generally have longer life spans. Birds are the opposite; the larger the species, the longer it is likely to live. A Stanford University article actually cites a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo that lived 80-plus years in a zoo. Cats live anywhere from 10 to 15 years, Jennifer Coates notes on PetMD.
4. It’s unfair to the pet and recipient
Animals, especially those who have been abused or neglected in the past, can be sensitive to new surroundings. Even those who haven’t been abused might have problems with children or other animals in the house.
Bringing a pet into a home is a life-changing decision you shouldn’t be making for someone without their input. Will that large dog be happy in a cramped apartment without a yard? Will a new kitten get along with the dog that already rules the recipient’s home? Is the recipient even allowed to have pets in their apartment?
A better alternative, as Stacy mentioned in the video, is a pet adoption certificate, now available at many animal shelters. While not as much to “open,” a certificate allows the recipient time to decide which animal will fit their family, lifestyle, and budget.
There are ways for individuals to make educated decisions on which pet to select. Pedigree has a quiz for potential owners to take when deciding which dog breed to buy, while Purina has a similar test for those interested in cats. These sites determine what’s best for you and the animal based on your work schedule, housing situation, and more. Just don’t take a quiz on someone else’s behalf – you may think you know them well enough, but you might be wrong.
No matter what type of animal you buy for someone, you run the risk of the recipient (or someone they live with) being allergic to it. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of people have allergic reactions to cats and dogs.
6. Holiday stress
For most families, the holidays are a crazy time full of shopping, baking, parties, planning, and even traveling. In the middle of that, how can anyone find time to train an animal, particularly a new puppy? Ask anyone who has ever raised a pup – it’s challenging even under the most controlled conditions.
The holidays also entail lots of sweet treats like candy, which leads to another problem: potential poisoning. Chocolate, in particular, is toxic to dogs, as mentioned in a Money Talks News article in October.
7. Your kids’ or significant other’s responsibility may turn into your own
“Yes, I’ll take care of the new dog, mom. I swear!”
This will last until your son or daughter starts soccer practices or begins to hang out with his or her friends all weekend, every weekend. And what will happen when your spouse has to travel on business? Pet ownership is a job for the entire family, particularly if you have a new puppy or kitten.
8. You don’t know what you’re giving
Your good intention could turn into a bad problem. What if the animal injures the gift recipient, a child, or another animal? According to a PetFinder post, 800,000 dog bites necessitate medical attention in the U.S. every year. Conversely, the animal could be shy or even fearful of the recipient, based on previous experiences or general personality traits.
Bottom line? Like Stacy said, adopting an animal is a great way to gain a loving new member of the family. But the last thing you want to do is surprise someone with a new mouth to feed.