What's cuter on Christmas morning than a puppy or a kitten sitting next to the Christmas tree with a big red bow around its neck?
In theory, buying a new pet for a family member or friend sounds like it would be a good idea for a gift. In practice, the gift could end up being the worst idea unless the giver considers several important factors when choosing a pet for someone else to raise.
Louis Criswell, director of the Stark County Humane Society, offers several tips for giving the gift of pet ownership this holiday season.
"Our first suggestion is to consider buying a gift certificate, which we offer, instead of buying the actual pet," Criswell said. "Giving a gift certificate allows the person to come in and select the pet that best matches their personality. It's difficult on the animal to get adopted and then have to come back to the shelter because of a difference in personalities. The animal gets confused and starts to think of the shelter as its home."
Criswell said the Humane Society adopted out more than 3,000 animals in the past year. That record was better than more 1,900 shelters across the U.S. He said that being open 7 days a week, using social media such as Facebook and putting up Adoption Boards with photos in area grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses has helped.
"So many people in the area think of us as a pet store versus a rescue facility," Criswell said. "We also have an ongoing campaign called 'Never too old to be loved' for the older pets that we get in."
The shelter is at capacity with 200 dogs and 300 cats available for adoption. Criswell said the downturn in the economy has contributed to the number of pets the shelter has helped. People have had a difficult time keeping their pets because of job loss.
Criswell suggests people consider all of the costs involved with pet ownership such as food and veterinarian bills before adopting.
Other important factors to think about include the environment where the pet will be living and the time the new pet owner has to spend with the animal.
"When people come in to adopt," Criswell said, "we spend some time with them asking a number of questions like 'do the new owners work?' 'Is the yard fenced?' 'How big is the house and yard?' and about other aspects of the environment the pet will be moving to."
Criswell said that they do see a lot of adoptions over the holidays. There is an application the potential pet owners have to complete and the shelter will do a follow-up call five days after the adoption to see how the pet and the owner are doing.
Page 2 of 2 - Before adopting, Criswell recommends:
• Researching different pet breeds using the Internet to see if the breed's characteristics match the potential owner's
• If there are other animals in the home, it is beneficial to bring those animals along to the shelter for a meet and greet before adopting.
• Before coming in to the shelter, determine the preferred type of personality of the animal. Some people like a calmer, quieter breed while others prefer a pet that is more active.
• Researching various costs such as food, grooming, veterinarian bills, possible training, boarding if needed and other related costs to ensure the household is prepared to spend the money over the life of the animal.