Friday, February 5, 2010

Pets: The Gift that Keeps on Taking

Many of us know that pets make terrible gifts. But it never fails that someone, somewhere thinks that this is a splendid idea. Many of us who have had the opportunity to actually go to the shelter and choose a pet (as opposed to one choosing you one day on your walk home from work) know exactly how difficult it can be to choose a companion that is going to be with you for the next 10+ years. Long hair? Short hair? High energy? Low energy? Pure bred? Mutt? These decisions can be exhausting, and most of us have some sort of idea of what we want. But could you imagine making these decisions for someone else? Do you know your friends, family, spouse well enough to pick out their best friend for the next decade?

Five reasons why pets make bad gifts:

1) Pets are very expensive, and the recipient might not be able to afford proper veterinary care for the animal. The average yearly cost for owning a pet (between vet care, food, toys, boarding, training) can be upward of $1000.

2) Timing is everything. Just because someone wants a pet someday, does not mean that they are ready for that kind of commitment today.

3) It’s all about the chemistry. Just because you fall in love with a particular personality, does not mean that your friend will have the same feelings.

4) Pets require a lot of time and energy. Most people with dogs spend a minim of an hour a day exercising and training their dog; the recipient may not have a schedule that allows the time necessary to properly train, exercise, and socialize a new dog.

5) Housing always needs to be considered. If the recipient rents a house or apartment, pets may not be allowed. And if they are allowed at that particular place, is your friend ready and able to pay the $500 pet deposit? Also, when they move, are they prepared to spend the extra time and energy (and money) it takes to find a new place that allows pets?

If you are sure that your friend is ready for the commitment and you still want to give them the gift of a furry companion, here are a few ways to make sure that it is works out for everyone involved:

1) Make a donation to a local shelter or animal rescue in the person’s name.

2) If they offer it, buy a “gift certificate” to a local humane society. Then the recipient can either adopt an animal or the gift certificate can be used as a donation.

3) Give a gift basket full of pet goodies with a note offering to go with the recipient as they go to the shelter to pick out a pet, and pay the adoption fee

4) Offer to pay for the first vet visit (or a pay for a training class, or for the first grooming) for their chosen pet.