Christmas, with its specific ambience is not only about spending our time with our family, but we also want to make someone’s wish come true and give the perfect gift. It’s a romantic notion for children and even some adults – waking up to find an adorable puppy (or a kitten) under the Christmas tree. Every year, many children plead for the latest fad on the market, only to discard them a few weeks after Christmas when the novelty wears off. The same perception is also apparent with pets. Unfortunately, the reality for many pets given as gifts is not the fairy tale ending of a happy long life with a loving family at all.
We all know the saying ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ but just a few understand what does it really mean. Unlike toys they don’t come with an off-switch. People change their minds about keeping their Christmas presents when they realize how much time is involved in looking after a puppy. Unwanted dogs who find themselves in the rescue system at a particularly hectic time for shelters and rescue groups, either as puppies who are in desperate need of socialization or as older dogs who may be traumatized by a return to chaos, develop various behavioural problems including fear aggression and separation anxiety.
The situation in Vancouver with abandoned dogs, however, isn’t so alarming. Vancouverites’ gift dogs seem to have the one-way ticket. As Jeanine Bratina, Communications and Community Relations, District of North Vancouver said:
We have not noticed any difference post-Christmas. But still, there are always animals available for the adoption. Anyone who wishes to adopt an animal is encouraged to come to the District’s Animal Welfare Shelter . You can have a look at available animals and fill out an application. From there, the shelter will conduct an interview and check references. If the pet and person are a suitable match, then the animal adoption will take place. Fees are dependent on animal species and age, for a dog it is up to $310.
Pets are not just dogs or cats, but smaller animals as well. These are typically considered starter pets for children. Once the novelty wears off, the children lose interest and thus the care of the animal falls to the parents. Lisa Hutcheon from Small Animal Rescue Society of B.C. explains:
With the added responsibility of having to care for a pet, the parents will look to rehome or get rid of the pet that their child is no longer interested in. This is where the problem starts for us. Most often, it takes about 4-6 months (after Christmas or Easter) for us to start seeing an influx of animals needing a new home. For example, people often buy baby animals and once they hit puberty (for rabbits 6-8 months of age), they start to become hormonal and may exhibit negative behaviours or become aggressive. When this happens, people would rather get rid of the unruly animal vs paying the cost to have it spayed or neutered. Spaying or neutering rabbits will eliminate negative or aggressive behaviours. However, with that said, rabbits are much more expensive to alter than it would be to spay or neuter a cat or dog. Many people will get rabbits often for free or fairly cheap (approximately $30), so for them to pay $200, plus to alter it, it really doesn’t happen – it is easier for them to get rid of it. If they adopt vs buying an animal, they can get an already altered animal for $50-$60.
Simply put, always do you research before getting any pet. Know what their life spans are and how to properly care for them. Know what the costs will be and how much work, time and living space will be required to properly care for your new pet. People expect rabbits to live 2 years, but they can live up to 10 – 12 years. Dog, cats may live up to 15 - 18, chinchilla even 20 years and more. Will your 8 year old child still want their pet or care for it when they are 18? Who will care for it once they leave your home? All of this should be on the top of the pro and con list when you consider getting a pet – even when you want one just for yourself.
I have always advised – don´t buy a pet, adopt! When you are ready for everything that comes with a new member of your family, you life will become, well, somehow better, brighter and happier. What´s more, you will do a good thing. And that is quite a nice start to the New Year for sure.