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A pet for Christmas?

Pets need responsible owners – humane society

By: By Lucy Haines

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 06:00 am

Edmonton Humane Society spokesperson Shawna Randolph said adopting a pet for Christmas can work, if people are ready for the responsibility.
Edmonton Humane Society spokesperson Shawna Randolph said adopting a pet for Christmas can work, if people are ready for the responsibility.
LUCY HAINES/St. Albert Gazette

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Is it a good idea to give a pet for Christmas? In recent years, there has been a decided push away from bringing a new animal into the home during the busy holiday season, particularly by animal welfare groups, and for many reasons: the high-stress time, with visitors coming and going, and lack of routine makes it a less than ideal environment to introduce a new family member.

“I discourage it. People don’t always think about vet costs or pet insurance –and what if there’s an accident?” said Pet Valu associate Jennifer Dlouhy. “I’m getting a puppy in the spring and I’ve been planning it for two years. It’s such a time commitment, and we never want people to get a pet on a whim.”

Shawna Randolph, spokesperson for the Edmonton Humane Society, said the organization had an official policy until December 2011, which said that under no circumstances should pet adoptions be allowed as Christmas gifts.

But the society had a change of heart when its research showed that there wasn’t a spike in animal returns to the shelter after Christmas, and it didn’t want to lose what would’ve been a good adoption match just because of the date on the calendar.

“Even if it’s at Christmas, people still go through the same adoption process here – if they’re travelling or hosting parties over the holidays, we’d find that out during the interview process and recommend waiting,” Randolph said. “But a lot of folks actually don’t have a busy Christmas, so the time can work.”

If the animal is a gift, Randolph said the person getting the gift needs to know so as to be prepared. The person gifting the pet has to demonstrate responsibility too, especially when it’s a parent gifting a pet to a child, or perhaps an elderly grandparent.

“We always ask people to do research and think of what pet will fit in with their family. A good starter pet for a child can be a hamster or beta fish. A puppy, though, has high needs but can teach responsibility and become an important part of the family. It has to be thought out,” said Randolph.

As in past years, the humane society’s Santa Paws program will see volunteers deliver 20 animals on Christmas Day for the first 20 to go through the adoption process between December 19 and 23. The limit of animals each person can adopt as a gift depends on city limit bylaws.

Esther Le Bel, assistant manager at Paradise Pet Centre, said there are products to help pets cope with Christmas, things like a motion-sensing deterrent to place by the tree, that shoots a puff of air – perfect for cats who like to play in Christmas trees. “Cats want vertical space, so set up a cat post nearby too,” said Le Bel. “The anxiety of a new space and new people can cause problems. Cats and dogs are creatures of habit. If it’s a new pet and a new home, take extra care to ensure the animal is safe and comfortable.”


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