October 23, 2018

By ASHLEY SPRAGUE

Every Christmas thousands of young animals are given as gifts; kittens found in stockings, puppies with crimson, red bows on their heads, all found by their unexpecting, new owners on Christmas morning. Some of these new additions to the family may work out, most, however, do not.
Marisa Kelland has been a volunteer at Toronto Cat Rescue (TCR) for four years. The popular cat rescue and adoption agency in southwestern Ontario has local outlets including at Petsmart. She said every year their intake increases tenfold in the weeks after Christmas.

“It’s really sad, the amount of rescues we do is way more around then. So many people are taking their ‘unwanted gifts’ to the shelter, or leaving them on the streets because they don’t know how to take care of them properly. People buy these pets for their children and loved ones because they’re really adorable at first, and then give them up as soon as they realize that a pet takes work. It’s just sad.”

Michelle Amey, a customer service representative at Petsmart in Kitchener, deals with adoptions throughout the year and agrees with Kelland about the increasing number of adoptions around the holidays. Pet adoption is at a high throughout this season, especially when most chain pet stores have 25-50 per cent discounts on adoptions on Black Friday and Boxing Day.

“Animals are treated like inanimate objects when it comes to Christmastime. Children open their gifts and are excited for the first few days and then they get put on the shelves and never thought about again,” said Amey. “A pet should be a welcome addition to any family, and should be talked about with everyone involved in the adoption, not just given as a gift, last minute. Just like it’s a big decision to have a child, it’s a big decision to have a pet and shouldn’t be taken as lightly as it is.”

Some people may not realize just what giving a pet as a gift entails, with the end result being the recipient becomes a pet owner. The act of giving such a sweet, innocent full-of-love new pet may be exciting, but what happens the next day when that perfect ball of fur makes a mess on the carpet, or the next week when he scratches the back of the new leather couch in the living room?
Owning a pet is not a decision to be taken lightly, and when given as a gift, many people do not
weigh the repercussions of making this decision.

The best case scenario is the pet and his new family live happily ever after, in a home full of love and cuddles, but that’s
easier said than done. More often than not, the sweet Christmas morning surprise ends up in a shelter, unwanted and emotionally scarred by the time Valentine’s Day comes around.
“Pets that have already been adopted once are less likely to be adopted again, especially when they grow out of the small puppy or kitten stage, which happens at about four to five months. Everyone wants baby animals, not many people will opt for a full grown cat or dog.

“If you welcome a pet into your home, they will gain your trust, and if they’re given up afterwards, it will be very hard for them to bond again with another family. Some pets lose adoptability all together because they become so hostile when they are surrendered,” said Kelland. “I think it’s really important that people understand pets are not presents. They’re just not.”

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