Americans have a long tradition of giving pets -- usually puppies or kittens -- as gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, holidays or graduation, but there’s debate over how this practice impacts the animal’s welfare.
Recently, the ASPCA conducted a survey to learn more about people who acquire pets as gifts. In the survey, 96% of the people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet. The vast majority of these pets are still in the home (86%). The survey also revealed no difference in attachment based on the gift being a surprise or known in advance. Several studies conducted in the 1990’s and 2000 (Patronek, 1996, Scarlett, 1999 New, 1999, New 2000) found that pets acquired as gifts are less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired by the individual.
The ASPCA recommends the giving of pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and the ability to care for it responsibly. We also recommend that pets be obtained from animal shelters, rescue organizations, friends, family or responsible breeders -- not from places where the source of the animal is unknown or untrusted.
If the recipient is under 12 years old, the child’s parents should be ready and eager to assume care for the animal. If the gift is a surprise, the gift-giver should be aware of the recipient’s lifestyle and schedule -- enough to know that the recipient has the time and means be a responsible owner.
The recipient’s schedule should also be free enough to spend necessary time to help assure an easy transition into the home. This is especially important during the holidays and other busy times.