Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Animals not good gifts

No Christmas puppies? What kind of Grinch is writing this letter, you ask? What better way to show someone you love the true spirit of Christmas than by giving them a cuddly, beautiful ball of energy that will grow up to be their best friend?

While the picture of bliss presented in art and advertising is heartwarming, the reality is much less. Advocacy groups, veterinarians, professional dog trainers and reputable breeders are often at odds when it comes to dogs except in one area, and that area is in giving live animals as presents. All are in strong agreement—no Christmas puppies.

Statistically, in the days, weeks and months following the holidays, animal rescue organizations nationally are deluged by people trying to rid themselves of that same cute puppy that started to grow up, started to get big, eat more, require training, require brushing, require attention from the family. The kids are back in school, and the care of the puppy falls to the parents. Pet ownership is for life. It teaches valuable lessons regarding care, love, responsibility, loyalty and respect for other living beings.

What happens to the value of a pet when it's given the same status as a new toy under the tree? How many of those new toys are shelved and forgotten by New Year's Day? Is that the lesson we want our children to learn about pets? We often spend months researching for a new car. Shouldn't we spend at least that much time on a living, breathing member of the family, one that could be with us for up to 15 years?

A good, reputable breeder will not sell a puppy at Christmas. Most don't even have pups available at that time. The vast majority of pet stores and breeders with pups available are breeding for one reason—money. They aren't interested in the health and welfare of the pups being bred. Purchasing from these sources only encourages the poor breeders and puppy mills to breed more and more puppies. Purebred and registered does not mean well bred. All it means is that the parents of the puppy were registered. Ethical breeders health test their dogs, prove them in the conformation arena and care enough to require spay and neuter of their pups.

If you absolutely cannot resist the gift of a pet, please do so responsibly. Put a stuffed toy under the tree with a note from "Santa" telling the children that their special pup hasn't been born yet. Include a leash and collar, a dog bowl, a puppy care book, a puppy class and a certificate from either the shelter or a reputable breeder. Let the new pup be a family decision. Let the whole family go to the breeder or the shelter and pick out a pet that everyone wants. Wait until there is time for everyone to get to know the puppy without the bright lights, danger, and excitement of the holidays.

Please care—no Christmas puppies. Give your children and family the gift of respect and compassion.

Kathleen Clark


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