Breeders caution giving puppies, kitties as gifts

These three yellow Labrador puppies will make a great family member someday, but the owner of the pups, breeder Sharon Edwards, will not sell them as Christmas gifts.  - submitted photo
These three yellow Labrador puppies will make a great family member someday, but the owner of the pups, breeder Sharon Edwards, will not sell them as Christmas gifts.
— image credit: submitted photo

Nothing is more irresistible than a soft, cuddly puppy peeping out from behind brightly wrapped packages underneath a Christmas tree, or as charming as a tiny, fluffy kitten chasing a catnip ball around the living room on Christmas morning.

Yet, however adorable they may be, puppies and kittens usually don’t make good Christmas gifts.

Although a kitten or puppy may sound like the perfect Christmas gift for kids, an animal welfare expert and local breeder advises parents to wait and buy the family pet at a later date.

“Holidays are stressful enough,” said Sharon Edwards, who breeds and shows yellow Labrador retrievers from her home in Langley.

Edwards said it has always been her practice to refuse to sell puppies that are meant as a surprise Christmas gift.

“A puppy does not make an appropriate stocking stuffer,” she said.

Edwards says a reputable breeder will not sell puppies for Christmas, unless such a sale has been pre-planned with the breeder and all family members.

“Bringing home a new pet should be the only event... a celebration of its own. It should not be tied into an already busy, stressful time for many families,” Edwards said.

Edwards said it’s easy for the new pet to get lost in all the hubbub. With all the other gifts, kids may lose interest in the new animal quickly. Because a new puppy has not had any training yet, it may chew up that new Barbie Doll. Anxious kittens may climb the Christmas tree to hide, or become ill from eating holiday decorations. Distracted children often forget to walk the puppy and frustrated parents end up putting the creature outside, or taking it to a shelter or back to the breeder.

Jean Favini, co-founder of Oasis for Animals, a Langley animal rescue organization, agrees that during the holidays most homes are “too chaotic to introduce a new puppy or kitten into the mix.”

“It’s not fair to the animal to expect it to learn to live successfully in a home when families are in the throes of the holidays,” she said.

Favini points out the holiday can be dangerous to the health of young animals, with all things shiny and tasty around the house.

“Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and tinsel and holiday decorations can be deadly when eaten by kittens,” she said.

Favini and Edwards both say there is just too much excitement and activity in most households during the holidays to really give the animals of fair chance of becoming successful additions to the family.

Favini says when this happens everyone loses. Surprise gifts no matter how well intentioned, are not recommended, she said. If it’s a sweater that doesn’t fit, it can be returned to the store and exchanged for another. The same is not true of pets.

“Returning a pet to already overcrowded shelters is stressful for the animal, sometimes making it more difficult to adopt a second time,” Favini said.

Both women advise families to take their time in choosing new pets and to make sure everyone in the family is ready for the responsibility.

“We hope when people adopt an animal that they will have that dog or cat for many years to come,” Favini said.

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