Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA), encourages people to think twice before they make pet adoptions as a gift this holiday season.
Bernstein says adoptions tend to pick up around the holidays because it’s a romantic time to give a new pet to kids, a loved one or even friends. But people tend to forget that it is a very stressful time as well, she said. Sometimes, pets are promised to children by parents, and the promise is fulfilled even if it’s clear the family may not have the resources to care for a pet.
“People need to realize that it is a commitment,” Ted Stevens, manager of Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS), said. “People often like the idea of a new pet, but after they adopt them, they realize puppies and kittens are a lot of work.”
Stevens said when it comes to pet adoptions, the most common thing people forget is how much it costs to care of a pet, such as food and cat litter. New pets also might need medical treatment shortly after adoption.
Because of the holiday season, LBACS expects to take in approximately 300 dogs plus an additional 60 abandoned by their owners. West Coast Animal Rescue volunteer Leslie Bryant said the spike occurs because people can’t or don’t arrange for boarding due to the expense, so they see animal shelters as a less expensive alternative.
“Some come back for their pets and some don’t,” Bryant said.
Although both Stevens and Bernstein warn the public of the responsibilities and the issues of adoptions this holiday season, they both support adoption instead of purchasing animals from stores. Bernstein said store purchases are discouraged because it often leads to inhumane practices and persuades people to breed more animals.
“Millions of animals are waiting for a family,” Bernstein said. “The same animals that people see through Internet dealers and stores can also be found at shelters.”
Once the decision is made to adopt a pet, there are special causes for concern during the holidays, Bernstein said toxic food and dangerous decorations could make new pet adoptions very difficult for inexperienced pet owners.
If a pet is adopted, Bernstein provides some tips to remember to stay happy with the new family member around the holidays.
• A new pet can topple over a Christmas tree, which can cause a fire. It’s common, she said, for fires to start as a result of a tree around the holidays.
• Bernstein also recommends new owners be on lookout for dogs and cats who like to eat table scraps or purposely knock food down from the table. She warns that pets can get Irritable Bowl Syndrome from table food, which can cause pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting.
• Although some animals might already be house broken, she said it is common for pets to have accidents when they arrive to a new home.
• Beloved holiday decorations and furniture can be destroyed by new pets.
• Holiday guests in a new home might add stress to the animal.
Because of these possible issues around the holidays, Bernstein recommends people use gift certificates as a gift rather than the animal itself and encourages the people with the gift certificates to come and pick out the pet themselves.
Stevens said if finding the right animal is difficult, he encourages the public to ask the shelter’s staff to help find their ideal animal.
“Sometimes people come into the shelters thinking they want a dog, and then they end up coming home with a hamster,” Bernstein said.
Gift certificates can be applied to anything at the shelter, including pet adoptions. Bernstein said these certificates are the solution to people returning pets, which is discouraged, she said, because the goal of the shelters is to provide new homes for the animals.
“It’s not adoption if it’s a return,” Bernstein said.
If the stress of the holidays is of a concern to potential owners, Bernstein said shelters are willing to keep an animal until after the holidays.
For more information on pet adoptions, visit spcala.com/index.php.
SpcaLA P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village and Education Center, as well as the Long Beach Animal Services, is at 7700 E. Spring St.
Sarah George can be reached at email@example.com.