Many experts warn that it's a bad idea to give puppies or kittens as gifts, because the animals may soon wind up at animal shelters.
In fact, most municipal animal shelters won’t even let anyone adopt a dog or cat at this time of the year out of the concern they might just be returned within a few weeks.
“We won’t adopt out as Christmas gifts, so we don’t allow adoptions the week of Christmas,” said Laura Burban, director of the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter in Branford.
“I think in general it’s a bad idea to give a pet as a gift, especially as a surprise gift,” said Marjean O’Malley of STARS, the Stratford Animal Rescue Society, which supports that town’s animal shelter.
“Anyone who’s had a puppy can tell you it’s like bringing home a baby,” O’Malley said.
In Stratford, and at most other municipal animal shelters, people wanting to adopt a pet must fill out a lengthy questionnaire, and provide veterinary records and other evidence that they can take care of the animal. Everyone in the household is required to come to shelter and interact with the dog or cat before taking it home.
“It’s a decision that can’t be taken lightly,” O’Malley said. “This is a living creature and it does require appropriate care.”
The ban on adopting out dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, to be given as gifts isn’t something the shelters and rescuers just follow at Christmastime.
“We normally all year don’t allow animals to be given as gifts,” said Milford-Orange Animal Control Director Rick George.
George said most of the puppies, kittens and other animals given as gifts at this time of the year come from pet stores, which do not follow the same restrictions.
O’Malley noted the same thing. She said that’s why shelters and rescuers frequently see so-called “designer breed” puppies dumped at animal shelters in the winter months. Breeds such as Yorkiepoos, a cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle, are a specialty of pet stores.
“People pay thousands of dollars for these dogs,” O'Malley said.
According to Burban, people who get a designer-breed puppy think they are really cute, until they have to take it for a walk in a snowstorm.
“It’s usually after the holidays that we get bombarded with phone calls,” she said.
Burban said even under ideal conditions there’s a chance that a person adopting a pet might return it, and giving a pet as a last-minute, surprise gift is far from the ideal situation.