When Christmas rolls around and you ask most kids what they want, more often than not they'll ask for a pet.
Everyone has this wonderful fantasy of a kitten or a puppy all wrapped up in a bow under the tree on Christmas morning with the kids grinning from ear to ear.
But often times, these pets end up at shelters or worse, on the streets, because families take on more responsibility than they can handle.
Hannah Stember of the Best Friends Animal Society spoke with People magazine to give some helpful tips if you're thinking of getting a pet for Christmas this year.
1. Adopt, Don't Shop
There are literally thousands of animals that need a good home at any given time, so why not rescue one of them? And yes, you can still get cute puppies and kittens from shelters. Adopting saves two lives, the one of the animal you're taking home, and the one of the animal you are making space for at that shelter.
2. Forgo Surprises
A pet is not like a toy truck where even if you don't LOVE it, you still like it. Getting a pet is getting a lifelong bond. Instead of surprising someone with a pet, bring whoever it is you're giving it to (your kids, your parents, friends) with you when picking it out. Especially with young kids, shelters offer great counselling services that can help you pick the right animals.
3. Be Prepared
Bringing a pet home is a long commitment. It can last more than 10 years. Just like when you bring a baby home, you need to make sure the house is pet-proof. Your furry friend will spend a lot of time exploring, so it's good to make sure it's safe for them to do so. It also helps if you pet sit for a friend before committing to your own addition.
4. Consider A Certificate Instead
This one is especially big if you're giving a pet to someone outside of your family. Many shelters offer certificates you can give as a gift. It covers the adoption fee of the pet, but allows the person to come and choose themselves. It's also a great way to keep that element of surprise while still giving you some time to prepare the household.
5. Have A Surrender Plan
This is a sad reality of many pet gifts. Sometimes life throws you curve balls and you cannot care for your animals any longer. It's always a good idea to know which shelters are near you so you can safely give your pet a home if you no longer can keep them. It is often better to surrender pets to a shelter first than to a new home you've found yourself. This way, there is a record of the pet's well-being and history.
All in all, pets can make great gifts. You just need to make sure you've got the right tools in place!