I write about this once a year, so if you have read these sentiments before, my apologies…but since you stumbled across this article anyway, be sure to share the article and these sentiments with everyone you know! And I actually do not apologize, redundancy is the best way to get points across and this is one of the most important points I will make all year!
Aside from the exception of parents planning on surprising the family with a new pet for the holidays, that know full well what they are getting themselves and the family into, gift purchases of pets of any kind are UNWISE to say the least. Pets are living creatures, little lives that are at our mercy when they are chosen to be purchased or adopted.
When we take animals’ lives in our hands, we take on the responsibility of the entire span of their lives. For rabbits, rodents, and pocket pets, this mas be 3 to 5 to even 10 years is some cases. For puppies and kittens this could be 10 to 15 to even 20 years in some cases. For birds, this could be 50 plus years! The point is, there are a lot of years that you take responsibility for when you decide to interject into an animal’s life. Unless you will be the main person solely responsible for the fate of that pet or have a near guaranteed assurance that an animal you home will be well cared for and regarded as a family member, then you have no business offering an animal as a present.
The truth is that the two biggest reasons for pets ending up homeless are 1.) pets purchased as impulse buys and 2.) pets given as gifts. Last year, I had to deal with the aftermath of a retirement aged widow who came in very stressed out over having received the gift of two Shih Tzu puppies from her grandchildren (who are full grown adults). Apparently, in light of the recent loss of her husband, this lady’s grandchildren thought that it would be a good idea to fill the void with 2 new puppies. Good intentions or not, while Grandma made a brave face to act like she just LOVED being gifted with two puppies for Christmas, Grandma was quite oppositely stressed beyond measure.
She told me in no uncertain terms that going about life alone for the first time in several decades was challenging enough, but having to to care for two very high maintenance toy breed puppies was something she would have never asked for. As I went through my physical examinations and discussed puppy health concerns, immunization regimens and proper age to spay/neuter, it seemed that my words barely registered. Before parting, I advised the owner that we would do anything we could to help her properly care for the puppies whether it be medical and/or husbandry advice and training recommendations. This did not evidently alleviate the lady’s anxiety over the puppies.
That was the last time I ever saw that owner or the puppies. Repeated calls and e-mails went unanswered. Although a full year has gone by, it still makes me cringe to think what may have become of those unwanted puppies. I can only hope and pray that she either found the gumption to love and raise those puppies and simply chose to find another vet, or she was able to find a good home for them after all.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.