Animal welfare

Study backs pets as presents, but resistance remains

Santa Claws: The PetSmart chain raises money for animal welfare groups by providing photo opportunities for pet owners at its stores in December.
Santa Claws: The PetSmart chain raises money for animal welfare groups by providing photo opportunities for pet owners at its stores in December.
Richard W. Rodriguez / AP

Local resource

The Humane Society of Greater Miami’s Soffer and Fine Adoption Center, 16101 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami Beach, recommends gift certificates, not gift pets, and is discounting its adoption fees by 50 percent through Dec. 31. The shelter is closed Mondays and on Christmas Day; 305-696-0800,

Associated Press

Giving a puppy or kitten to the pet lover on your list is a gift idea animal activists have long warned against. But a national animal welfare group says fears of pets being rejected or returned are unfounded.

Some shelters around the country are ramping up for Christmas Day deliveries of new family pets, a move applauded by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, whose new study supports seasonal adoptions. But some shelter leaders maintain that adoptions are better left for after the holiday rush.

An ASPCA telephone survey found that 96 percent of responding owners who got their pet as a gift (whether it was a surprise or not) said the way they got the animal increased or had no impact on their love or attachment.

Eighty-six percent of those pets were still in the home or remained with the family until the animals died — the same rate as pets obtained in other ways. The study was conducted in July and published in the journal Animals in October.

Until those results, even the ASPCA advised against giving pets as gifts.

Dr. Emily Weiss, the nonprofit’s vice president of shelter research and development, says the holidays are an ideal time to adopt a pet “because many of us have time off, and we are around and focused on home and family.”

But not all shelters are convinced. The Humane Society of Greater Miami does not encourage pets as gifts, according to spokeswoman Laurie Hoffmann, who says the decision is too personal and consequential for both prospective owners and pets to be made by a third party.

Instead, the Miami nonprofit recommends gift certificates, and is discounting its usual adoption fees —$100-$195 for puppies and dogs, $35-$50 for cats — by 50 percent through Dec. 31.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, which is not affiliated with the national organization, also discourages pets as presents.

“The image of a puppy bounding out of a box is something people relish, but the decision to adopt should be done with purpose,” said Ana Bustilloz of the Los Angeles shelter. “We suggest a gift certificate. That way, the adoption is a gift, but the pet is chosen by the person or the entire family.”

The shelter manager of the Beacon Rescue Animal Shelter in Ocean View, N.J., says there’s too much stimulation on Christmas morning for families’ new furry friends.

“The first 48 hours with a new pet are crucial,” David Haines said. “You don’t want overstimulation. So much is going on. … I tell people no wild parties, just the family.”

But Joan Adams of Niagara Falls, N.Y., says the holiday season is a great time for adoptions. She got her dog Bella last Dec. 22. She suggested adoptions can help alleviate holiday depression.

“Dogs or cats or whatever the animal require your attention, so you don’t concentrate on yourself so much. You concentrate on the animal. It gets people through the holidays and all the days after,” Adams said.

Volunteers from the Humane Society of Pinellas in Clearwater will be delivering pets this Christmas for the first time. Twila Cole, the shelter’s director of development, will be among the volunteers.

“My husband and I don’t have kids, so this will be a wonderful new tradition for us,” Cole said. “Some people work in soup kitchens, but for an animal activist, what better way to help than delivering a pet to its forever home?”

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