While considering all the facts about adopting a family pet is crucial, it’s especially important during the holidays.
Animal shelter volunteers agree that potential pet owners need to be ready for the commitment involved in taking care of any animal. However well intended, choosing a pet at the animal shelter for someone else as a surprise gift doesn’t always work out for the family or the pet.
Kathryn Ketchum, Animal Services Manager at the City of Sugar Land Animal Shelter and Sugar Land Petopia offers advice for anyone thinking about adopting a pet, especially parents who may be thinking about adding a new member of the family on Christmas Day. Ketchum says do not get an animal to give to someone else. Gift certificates are the way to go.
“We suggest making a gift certificate for someone; maybe include a pet bed or toy along with it, that way you can put something under the tree. Then the person comes in with the certificate to the shelter and they can choose the pet they want,” Ketchum said.
Creating the certificate could be a simple card, or a large poster board, stating the giver will pay for the adoption fees, and the certificate can be redeemed after the receiver has chosen a pet at the shelter. Gift ideas for under the tree might include putting the certificate in with a gift basket filled with toys, a collar, maybe a leash, some treats, or books on pet training.
“If your goal is to make someone’s life happy with a pet, it’s really a personal choice of the one receiving the animal. They are the ones making the forever home for the rest of the animal’s life. Maybe the person giving the gift wants to choose a large pet, when really the person receiving the gift would prefer a smaller dog. It all comes down to what is the best fit for both and animal and the owner,” Ketchum said.
“If you are adopting a pet for a child, make sure you put some thought into this time of year. It can be a stressful for the animal. Bright lights, many people and much excitement. Be sure there’s a quiet, restful place for the animal if you do adopt during the holidays.”
Pet sleepovers are another way to find out if you’re ready to adopt a pet for Christmas. The sleepover will let you know how well you and your potential new buddy spend some time together, and ultimately see if you two – or more, depending on how many are in your family – are a good match.
“That’s the reason for the sleepovers. Sometimes people make a rash decision based on too many emotions about an animal, when adoption really needs to be more than that. Maybe you thought you were ready for a puppy, but you really aren’t yet. Maybe you didn’t realize your new job kept you away from home a lot,” said Ketchum.
“Sometimes a sleepover doesn’t work out. And that’s OK. Just return the pet, no questions asked. We do ask that they fill out a report card so we know what the animal is like away from the shelter. That actually helps the next person who is looking at a possible sleepover with the same animal. The report cards help so we know whether the dog just loves being a couch potato, or whether he or she needs a lot of activity.”
As in the past, the shelter helps Santa make a very special delivery to homes on Christmas Eve.
“Santa stops at the shelter for people who have already chosen an animal here. He will put a hold on the animal at the shelter, and load up all the animals who were chosen at the shelter, and deliver them on Christmas Eve to the new owner’s home, as long as the new pet owners live within the Sugar Land city limits. Santa rides with the police department so he can make the rounds quickly,” Ketchum said.
Still thinking about adding a new member to the family? Animal shelters suggest that you give the family a pet as a gift, but never as a surprise. Be sure to pay the pet’s adoption fees and avoid impulse giving. Also consider the costs of owning a pet: food and treats, beds, bowls, collar, leash, tags; veterinarian costs, grooming, flea and tick prevention; training classes, pet crates, pet sitters.
Sugar Land Petopia (a division of Sugar Land Animal Services) will host a Home for the Pawlidays adoption event on Dec. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Adoptions are $10 for all animals.
At Fort Bend County Animal Services in Rosenberg, new hours are in place, according to Shelter Director Rene Vasquez.
“We are now open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and have recently opened on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., to try to see if we can save more lives while people are off from work,” she said.
While adopting a pet is a big commitment for the entire family, Julie Kuenstle, vice president of communications and marketing with the Houston SPCA, said there are important factors to consider before deciding to bring home a new family member – especially during the holidays.
“Once a family is ready to commit to adoption, the holidays can be a great time to bond and get acclimated since the kids are out of school, and many parents have some time away from work,” Kuenstle said. “We don’t recommend surprising family members, rather the Houston SPCA offers gift certificates to put under the tree, and part of the bonding process is making the right selection for your home.”
The Houston SPCA also offers suggestions when making the decision to add a furry member to the family during the holidays or any time. Some considerations include finding out if there are pet restrictions where you live, or if you travel a lot; if you have the energy for daily walks, are you a high energy dog lover or a laidback cuddler. Are you able to house train and provide basic obedience? Do you have allergies?
Area animal shelters
Houston SPCA: HoustonSPCA.org
Sugar Land Petopia: www.sugarlandpetopia.org
City of Sugar Land Animal Services: www.sugarlandtx.gov/220/Animal-Services
Rosenberg Animal Control: https://rosenbergtx.gov/public-services/animal-control//
Fort Bend County Animal Services: www.fortbendcountypets.com
Missouri City Animal Services: www.missouricitytx.gov/92/Animal-Services