"It's just not the kind of dog we would have chosen." "The house training was just too much." "We never wanted an animal." Those are just a few of the many excuses former animal shelter employee Daphna Nachminovitch has heard from people dropping off unwanted holiday pets.
Nachminovitch, now Vice President of Cruelty Investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told HuffPost that as appealing as the idea may seem to give a loved one the gift of a pet, holidays are not the best time to introduce a pet into your home.
"People don't have the time to monitor the animals during the holidays." She added that it can be dangerous for puppies around Christmas, considering all the plants and other gifts lying around that a pet could swallow.
"If the family is ready and willing to wait until after the holidays, the best option is to give a gift certificate for a pet," Nachminovitch suggested.
"It is a huge lifetime commitment to take in an animal, and it is only fair to be able to meet the animal you will be taking care of," she said, adding that giving animals as surprise gifts to children assuming they will be responsible for the pet, is an unfair expectation.
Ines de Pablo, founder of Wag'N Enterprises, echos Nachminovitch's thoughts, adding that an adult should be primarily responsible for taking puppies to training classes, and then teach their children these skills.
She told HuffPost that young children and puppies should always be supervised. "Don't put the animal in a position where it will fail. Children have hands and if you have a child and puppy play together and the puppy feels cornered, he's going to use his mouth to tell the child to back off a bit."
Animals "are not stuffed toys," and they need to be taught manners from the moment they come into your home. "One woman came into the shelter and gave away her baby pomeranian because it peed on her rug. Puppies probably haven't received the memo about value, so if your $400 pair of shoes is on the floor, then they're fair game."
De Pablo stressed that "a tired puppy is the best puppy" and when welcoming a new animal into your home, make sure to exercise him adequately and train him properly. The best thing you can do is inform yourself about what it takes to own a pet, find a trainer and choose a doggy day care soon after bringing your puppy home.
As warned by Michelle Sherrow on the blog PETA Files: "People who give animals as gifts are essentially sticking about 16 years' and thousands of dollars' worth of responsibility under the tree."
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals writes on their website that before giving pets as gifts, consult and engage the recipient in the process of selecting their future pet. ASPCA is also running a campaign against puppy mills, warning buyers not to purchase pets or supplies from stores that sell puppies.
So before you stick a cute puppy in a gift box this holiday season, consider if it will still be a cute gift a few years down the line.
If you do decide to get a pet this year, consider adoption. Visit your local shelter or check out Petfinder.com.