Why animals are not materialistic presents


Gerhard G. via pixabay

Dogs and cats are often wrapped up in bows and boxes to be gifted to loved ones.

Kelly Brewer, Social Media Manager

December is full of gift-giving and spending time with family and friends, but it can also be one of the most chaotic times of the year. Therefore, gifting a pet during the holidays is not a good idea.

Adopting a pet during the holidays can be stressful and even impossible. Most animal shelters have policies in place where animals can not be adopted during the holidays due to fear of relinquishment. Instead, they suggest gift cards to the animal shelter or even a bone wrapped in ribbon to suggest getting a pet together.

Research done by journalist Garret Ellison found “[Kent County Animal Shelter and The Humane Society of West Michigan] generally see an increase in pet surrenders in the first months of the year, a spike that pet experts say is attributed in part to well-meaning gift-givers who don’t quite think through everything pet ownership entails.”

The initial excitement of receiving a pet as a gift may be satisfactory, but animals are not something that can be thrown in the closet or never acknowledged again. “They do not really think past, ‘That is cute. I want it now.’ We are talking about a 15-year commitment in most cases,” said Carly Luttmann, the program supervisor of Kent County Animal Shelter.

Studies by the CDC have shown owning a pet can have many health benefits such as decreasing feelings of loneliness and increasing opportunities to exercise. However, it also comes with a huge responsibility because most pets have needs which need to be attended to daily.

The holiday season can be stressful as most are worried about finances due to holiday spending and the pressure of trying to bring family together. With the holidays being one of the most chaotic times of the year, managing these needs can be unrealistic during this time.

Junior Andrew Little received a puppy for Christmas of 2019. “I was excited to add a new edition to our family because we love dogs,” he said. His family still has the dog today, but balancing out the holidays and taking care of a new puppy was stressful for the family. “We probably should have waited until after the new year to adopt.”

A study of 222 people who received a pet during the holiday season showed 14 percent of them returned the pet because it was an “unwanted gift” or the owner did not have time to care for it. Carelessly giving a pet to someone who can not care for it is irresponsible and can even have negative mental effects on the animal.

Just like humans, animals can suffer from mental illness. Animals in captivity require proper treatment to maintain mental health. Experts have proven animals can suffer from PTSD and depression from being mistreated and returned to animal shelters. Once an animal creates a bond with a human, it is difficult for them to be separated and locked in cages to possibly never be re-adopted. A bond with a pet is sacred and should be treated as such.

Gifting someone a pet can also not be as special to the new owner. Although the gift may be thoughtful, the owner misses out on the personal connection of picking out a pet. It is not always guaranteed the new owner will connect with an animal they have never met and now have to provide for.

Adopting a pet as a family instead can be a bonding experience. “At the Humane Society, they often see a mom and dad bring the kids with beaming smiles, because ‘we’re getting a puppy today.’ That’s a bigger difference than the brother who comes in to get a dog for mom,” said Jennifer Self-Aulgur, humane education coordinator of The Humane Society of West Michigan.

Adopting a living creature that has wants and needs should never be taken lightly. The process of adopting a pet should be discussed thoroughly, and the pet should be specifically chosen by the owner to make sure the bond between the pet and the owner(s) is real. Pets deserve a loving family who can properly care for them; they are not just a materialistic present.

If you were a pet, would you want to be adopted solely for the pleasure of the owner?