The time has come. You’ve dreamt of this moment for months. The little wet nose will poke out of the top of the box, and squeals of delight will fill the room as hearts are stolen by this four-legged floofy-tailed ball of cuteness. No doubt giving a pet as a gift crosses many minds this time of year. But, is it the best idea? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of giving pets as gifts.
Some animal welfare groups may warn against the gifting of pets during the holidays. They warn that these pets will only end up in animal shelters or worse. That line of thinking has been proven to be outdated by more recent studies published by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In recent years, the ASPCA has changed its position on gifting pets. The most recent data from the ASPCA studies indicate that pets received as gifts are actually less likely to end up back in shelters than pets either adopted or bought from other sources (including friends, pet shops, and shelters).
Giving pets as presents provides an opportunity for animals in shelters to find homes. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends the “giving of pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and the ability to care for it responsibly.”
If a child is under 12 years old that parents should be ready and willing to care for the pet. While pet ownership is a great way to teach children responsibility, parents will ultimately have to be aware of the needs of the pet and teach children how to care for their pets.
If the gift is a surprise, the giver should know the recipient’s lifestyle and schedule well enough to know if the recipient has the time and means, and desire to care for a pet properly.
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
If you’re thinking about giving a pet as a gift, consider the following pointers to help you make an informed decision!
It seems like a no-brainer, but this simple question is often overlooked. While our discussion here mainly centers around gifting a pet to your children, there may be other instances in which you consider gifting someone a pet. Sometimes well-meaning children will try to gift a pet to a lonely parent and it later becomes a burden to the parent. It’s best to have had conversations with the recipient ahead of time about their desire to own a pet and their ability to take on the responsibility of pet ownership. With adults and children alike, simply liking a pet or desiring the companionship of a pet, is not the same as the desire to own a pet.
Can the recipient physically care for the pet you want to gift them? Do the demeanor and physical exercise requirements of the animal fit the lifestyle and physical ability of the recipient? Consider how your child’s temperament and the animals’ will pair.
Along with the physical ability to care for a pet, there are extra expenses related to caring for a pet that should be accounted for. Do your research to make yourself aware of what your pet would need in terms of pet food, leashes, toys, vet visits, etc. You can’t always plan for what emergency care your pet may need and vet visits can become expensive.
Owning a pet is a great way to teach children the responsibility of caring for something other than themselves. However, you do want to be realistic about your expectations of them. Young children may be able to help to care for a pet, but that responsibility shouldn’t rest solely on them. If your child is under the age of 12, I would agree with the ASPCA that you should be prepared to be the animal’s primary caregiver as you teach your child to care for the pet.
If you live in an apartment in the city, perhaps a high energy Australian Shepherd is not the best fit. They would do better with lots of space to run and get all their energy out. Here are some ideas for which dogs are best for apartment living. In addition to a pet’s energy level, you should be aware of the space any breed will require for adequate exercise. Do you have a fenced-in yard where they can play without constant supervision, or will your pet need to be walked multiple times a day?
If your athletic teenager who is involved in clubs, sports and has a part time job is begging for a pet, just be sure that they actually have the time in their schedule to care for it.
Please don’t get a pet from a pop up animal fair or young child in the parking lot selling puppies if you haven’t already been planning to get a new pet. The Girl Scouts sell their cookies in front of the grocery store for a reason – it works! You can hardly resist their cute little smiles when they’re selling a $7 box of cookies. How are you going to say no when there are holding puppies instead? You have to dodge the little kid eyes and the puppy dog eyes all at once.
The bottom line is that you should avoid getting a pet on an impulse at all costs. Have you really thought through why you’re doing this and if your child is ready for the responsibility yet?
It might not be the best idea to give pets during the holiday season. Your schedule should be free enough so you can devote sufficient time to ensure a good transition into your home. This is especially important during the holidays. The busyness of the season combined with the neediness of a young animal or attempts to acclimate a pet to a new environment may prove to be too much causing unwanted stress.
You’re probably aware that pets inherently provide may benefits to their owners: loyalty, companionship, an exercise buddy, a stress reliever and of course… your new best friend! A pet can be the perfect companion for a child, but what are the pros and cons of getting a pet for your kid?
More exercise: Pets require some level of movement and activity. Wether it is intentional, like a walk around the neighborhood. Or unintentional, like chasing each other around the house, children with pets are more active than those without. This translates to helping kids to maintain a healthy weight and fewer doctor visits overall.
Nurtures care & compassion: Pets can teach us the selflessness of caring for another living thing and help us to develop empathy and compassion.
Teaches Responsibility: Very practically, caring for a pet teaches a child new levels of responsibility by learning to walk, feed and bathe their pets.
Improved social skills: Having a pet helps kids to build confidence. Surprisingly pets can also help kids with speech development and socializing. On walks, at the park or even playing in the neighborhood, other kids will be naturally curious about their pet and it will cause them to socialize with less fear or stress since their pet is the common denominator.
Stress reduction: Pets help to keep us in high spirits and reduce stress. Interacting with our pets is proven to increase our endorphin levels (the happy, feel good chemicals in our body) and reduces cortisol levels(i.e.stress). In fact, the act of cuddling or petting a
pet helps to counteract the negative, physical effects of stress, depression, and anxiety in our bodies.
Pet allergies: It’s important to know if your child has allergies to pets. Many children do and sometimes, unfortunately it’s not discovered until you bring a pet into the home. An unexpected allergy could be devastating to your little ones, so choose carefully.
Cost of ownership: With pets and all of their accessories come extra expenses. Since the kids aren’t paying the bills, we recommend researching your specific pet/breed before bring a pet into your home so that you aren’t surprised by their needs.
Time Investment: The burden of caring for a pet ultimately falls on you as the parent. If you get a pet, be ready to fulfill their needs when your child cannot or forgets. Ask yourself: “is this something that is manageable for me right now?”. If the answer is no, it’s ok to wait! That doesn’t make you a bad parent, just a responsible one.
If you do indeed gift a pet to your child this holiday season, read our blog on how to keep a pet safe during the holidays to help prevent it from becoming unnecessarily stressful.
One way to involve your kids in the process from start to finish is to give them a gift certificate to a local shelter or rescue group that covers the animal’s adoption fee and let them help choose. Although this option may not garner the same reaction, we love this idea because it allows the recipient to be more actively involved in the selection process. To make it feel more real, you could place the certificate in a pet carrier or package it with a collar and food bowl or cute pet accessories to give to your child to open on Christmas morning.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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