Is a puppy the right gift for Christmas?
by Heather Read
What kid hasn’t asked Santa for a puppy or an adorable kitty cat at least one year for Christmas? Pets can bring wonderful joy to a home; the unconditional and simple love they show often be just the perfect thing to make your family complete. But before you rush out to the pet store and buy a pet as your perfect holiday gift, there are some important decisions you should make about both where to make your purchase and also to confirm that your household is ready for the commitment.
It is certainly tempting to look through the window of a pet store and want to take home that adorable animal staring back at you. However, pet stores are the largest contributing factor to the existence of puppy mills. A puppy mill, is a breeding operation that aims to churn out as many puppies as possible; often animals are kept in overcrowded and uncleanly conditions, living in their own excrement or in metal cages that cut into their paws. Pennsylvania has been especially plagued with the puppy mill problem, but new legislation passed in 2008 has been cited as helping to clean up this industry. Just over 100 puppy mill operations were claimed to still be functioning in Pennsylvania as of June 2010, a reduction of almost two-thirds.
The economic crisis has also forced many families to surrender pets which they can no longer afford to care for. This, coupled with the seizure of animals from puppy mills, dog fighting operations and other cases of animal abuse has overcrowded and burdened animal shelters and SPCA operations with more animals than they can accommodate. The Humane Society estimates that 6-8 million pets enter animal shelters each year with up to 50 percent of them being euthanized.
These facts should be sobering and are the single largest reason why you should instead consider adopting an animal from a no-kill animal rescue. They are the real heroes for so many unwanted, yet loving animals. The easiest way to find a rescue that you can visit in time for the holidays is via Petfinder.com where you can search by geographic region, type of animal, breed, and compatibility with children or other animals.
My family and I volunteer as dog walkers at LaMancha, a rescue for animals of all shapes and sizes, right here in Chester County and nestled in the lovely rolling hills of Unionville, PA. Owner Dru Cambell and her army of volunteers care for and re-home dozens and dozens of animals. Each week gets better for us as volunteers as we come back for our weekly shifts and see another name on the list of animals that has been adopted.
LaMancha, like other rescues, has so many different animals available for adoption. Of all of the rescues I’ve dealt with in my lifetime however, I believe LaMancha is one of the most diverse in the array of breeds they have available to suit any different lifestyle. From Karelian Bear dogs, to Jack Russels, to Pomeranians, to Lab mixes, and of course Pitbulls – in terms of puppies and adult dogs they really have it all. Their cat condo is also home to many different types of kittens and adult cats which also need loving homes.
So now that we’ve convinced you to consider adopting from an animal shelter instead of a pet store for your holiday gift, here is something else to keep in mind. While your son or daughter might have asked for a puppy for Christmas, are you ready for one in your house? Puppies are always cute but …. they get bigger. You might have just finished potty training your child. Do you have time to now housetrain a puppy?
While LaMancha, like other rescue groups, does have puppies available. They have many adult dogs that also need homes. Because puppies are cuter, the adult dogs often get adopted less frequently. Your child will be just as happy with a face full of kisses from an adult, house-trained dog that already knows sit commands and how to walk on a leash. So don’t pass the adult dogs by in your quest for adopting.
I’d also like to encourage you to talk to the rescue group about your lifestyle and what you are looking for in an animal to add to your home. A high-energy breed, like a terrier, will fit better with an active family that can ensure it gets the energy and exercise it needs. A more sedentary household may prefer a more calm breed like a golden retriever. Since our family is owned by three enormous Akitas, I have to point out to that while the Akita breed is known for being an excellent guard dog, as a breed they can often be chameleon-like in adapting to days of being couch potatoes or others full of activity with long walks, hikes or adventures. Other breeds can be the same; many also have certain personality fits that will require you as an owner to be more of the “pack leader” than just a loving mom or dad. Your rescue adoption counselor can match you with the right animal — that is something you definitely won’t get at a pet store.
Finally, don’t forget that the dog or cat isn’t the only thing you’ll need under the tree. Make sure before you make your purchase you have:
● A crate or cage to transport your animal home in
● Collars and leashes
● Water and feed bowls and at least a 1 month supply of food (times get busy around the holidays)
Soon after your adoption, be sure to get information on how to order pet address tags and register your animal with the local municipality. Also make sure you chose a vet, it is likely that you will need a vet reference to complete your adoption anyway. Make sure to schedule your first within a few weeks of adoption. Likely your animal will come with a rabies vaccine certificate and should have been wormed. But you will need to get them up to date on all other vaccinations required and get an overall health assessment.
Good luck with your new addition to your home. May your holiday be filled with the pitter-patter of paws and tons of sloppy kisses from your favorite furry friend.