With Christmas just around the corner, folks are scrambling to find the perfect gift for friends and family. Many times a soft puppy or fluffy kitten comes to mind.

Holiday movies and commercials picture it like the best time to give or get a new pet under the tree on Christmas morning. Cute little puppies and kittens with bright red ribbons, excited children with smiles that brighten the room – but these scenes are well planned.

Before deciding to surprise your family, take into consideration that bringing a new animal into the home during such an exciting time can be just the opposite of a positive beginning. While it would be great if such holiday surprises always worked out so well, that’s often not the case. Too often, parents end up taking this new pet to a local animal shelter along with the 3 to 5 million other dogs and cats returned to shelters each year.

The giving of a pet is not something to do on impulse, which is why the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests that with forethought and a sincere commitment, pets can be a wonderful gift to give your family.

A pet is a lifelong commitment, with a monetary value attached. According to the ASPCA, this includes purchase of the pet, vaccinations, licenses, grooming, and sometimes unexpected health problems that require immediate and sometimes long-term treatment.

Pets are not something that you can take home, try out and return if they don’t suit you. You’re taking on a commitment to care for that animal for the rest of its life – a cat can live to be at least 15 years or more and a dog can live 10 years or more.

If you are thinking about adopting a pet this holiday season, consider the following as you decide if bringing an animal into your home is the right thing to do, both for your pet and your family.

  • Don’t just give a pet as a gift to someone without first making sure they want a companion animal. Consider giving them a gift certificate to a shelter or rescue group and let them find the perfect pet for themselves.
  • Determine whether or not you have time for a pet. This means not only do the children have time, but also do you have time. Walking, playing, feeding, grooming, training, socializing and vet visits can add up to more than a few hours a week.
  • If you want to give a child a pet, consider buying a stuffed dog or cat and have it sitting with the gifts. You can purchase some of the equipment for the pet like a carrier, leash or bed, and then attach a note saying everyone will go together to pick out their new pet after the holidays.

Often, gift animals end up at shelters, many of which are full of unwanted animals to begin with.

According to the ASPCA, each year millions of dogs enter shelters, yet of the approximately 59 million owned dogs in this country, less than 20 percent are shelter adoptees. By adopting at a shelter, you’re giving a homeless pet a new chance at life.

But there are other great reasons for going to a shelter or rescue. The cost is low and there are often discounts on spaying and neutering. Shelters in Northeast Mississippi have a good selection of pets and knowledgeable staffs to make sure you are getting the right animal for your family.

When you adopt a cat, a dog, or any other animal, you are taking responsibility for their health, welfare and happiness. Animals are feeling creatures and need someone who will take the time to love, care and provide for them.

Take pet ownership seriously. Don’t let a pet given as a holiday gift become a shelter statistic.

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