It’s hard to resist a puppy or kitten with a bow on its collar, but local experts warn pets should not be given as holiday gifts.
“We lean away from pets as Christmas gifts. We want to make sure whoever is receiving the animal actually wants it,” said Talia Musolino, manager of Animal Charity, a humane society in Boardman.
Often, young animals are chosen as gifts, but new owners don’t realize the commitment needed to raise a pet.
“A lot of people want puppies because they like to raise them the way they want, but they don’t realize how much effort goes into it,” she said.
And choosing a pet is a personal decision, said Mahoning County dog warden Matt Ditchey.
“You might think that a certain puppy is great for grandma, and she might have something else entirely in mind. A lot of times, the animals will pick the person,” Ditchey said.
He said abandonment of dogs and cats sees a slight boost around Christmas.
“We don’t necessarily see them dumped on the road so much as at shelters,” he said.
Musolino said that sometimes leaving animals at a shelter can be just as bad.
“Abandonment is against the law. Not every shelter has the resources or ability to take care of every animal. Many take only the animals that really need help,” she said.
Animal Charity had a recent case of two kittens abandoned in the organization’s Market Street parking lot. The incident was reported to Boardman police, who noted in the report that animal abandonment is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Experts did say there was one exception to the gift-giving rule: a parent giving a child a pet. In that case, they recommended adopting from a local shelter, such as the dog pound, Animal Charity or Angels for Animals in Canfield.
When pets are in a shelter “very rarely does that mean there’s something wrong with the animal. They all need a second chance,” Ditchey said.
He also suggested adopting an adult animal.
“You’ll know the personality of the animal and a lot of times they’re already spayed and neutered,” he said.
Kelly Black, feline manager at Angels for Animals, recommends parents bring children out to pet adoption centers before the holiday or birthday so there’s a chance for interaction.
“This gives parents a feel for what the child’s capability is for caring for the animal,” she said.
Angels for Animals lists its adoptable pets on its website. Other potential pets in shelters around the Mahoning Valley can be found at PetFinder.com.
In most cases, the adoption process is relatively simple. Angels for Animals and Animal Charity, for example, ask potential owners to fill out a questionnaire and will do landlord checks if a person rents to ensure pets are allowed in the building.
“Typically, we send them home the same day,” Black said.
Angels for Animals also offers gift certificates, which can be a good alternative to giving the pet itself as a gift, she added.
“If you have the certificate, it’s fun to get the pet supplies and possibly a [toy] cat or dog and put that under the tree,” Black said.