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December 09, 2016 08:23 AM

The holidays are a time when many folks get an itch to add a new member to their family.

While the urge to get a pet as a present for a loved one may be on your list, there are important points to consider before you make this big decision.

We talked to Hannah Stember of Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill animal organization in the United States, about what every gift giver should know before getting a pet as a present.

Read on to find out how to responsibly bring an animal into someone’s life this holiday season.

  1. Adopt: With thousands upon thousands of animals that need homes waiting in our country’s shelters, it makes sense to bring holiday cheer to a loved one and a needy pet all in one decision. Some may be hesitant to adopt from shelters, because they feel the animals are damaged or bad pets; this simply isn’t true. Shelters are full of every breed, age and demeanor of pet. There is bound to be the perfect furry friend for that special someone in your life. Plus, when you adopt, you save two lives: the pet you are bringing home and the pet you are making space for at a local shelter.
  2. Forgo Surprises: While the image of a puppy with a bow around its neck, sitting under the tree on Christmas morning is adorable, it is not the best choice for the pet. Bringing an animal into your home is about making a lifelong bond. Instead of surprising a family member with an animal, bring the whole family in to choose one together. This way you can ensure you pick the pet that fits in perfectly with everyone, and will make you happy for years to come. By going to a shelter and choosing a pet together, you can also utilize the help of adoption counselors, who will be able to tell you about the personalities of all the animals.
  3. Be Prepared: Pets aren’t gifts, they are a lifelong commitment. Make sure the person you are giving a pet to is ready to spend the next 10+ years of their life caring and paying for an animal. Along with being emotionally ready, the new home of the pet needs to be ready as well. You should think of getting a pet similar to having a baby. New parents baby proof their home before an infant’s arrival; the new owners of a pet needs to make sure their home is pet proof before bringing in a furry friend.
  4. Consider a Certificate: If you still want the element of surprise, you can get an adoption certificate from many shelters to give as a gift. This certificate covers the adoption fee of the pet, but allows the future pet owner to come in and choose their own animal.
  5. Have a Surrender Plan: Sadly, life is full of curve balls and sometimes owners can no longer care for their animals because of a change in circumstances. Many shelters encourage owners who find themselves in this situation to return the pet to them, instead of surrendering the animal to a city shelter or trying to find a home for the pet. This way, the pet receives professional care until a new home came be found for the animal through the shelter. It is important that you and the person you are getting a pet for knows what to do if, for whatever reason, they can not have the animal in their life any longer.

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