Thanksgiving has come and gone and many people are getting caught up in the holiday spirit. This is a great time to be thinking of the animals that are at the Potsdam Humane Society as well as at the other local shelters. Hopefully these dogs, cats, rabbits and birds will have a wonderful Christmas and get the ultimate gift of being placed in a loving home. In the meantime, they would be grateful for gifts of food, toys, treats, towels, blankets and kitty litter.
Some people wonder if an animal would be a nice gift to give to someone. When I hear this question I often think of the movie Christmas Vacation and Clark Griswald’s (Chevy Chase) Aunt Bethany and how she wrapped up her cat as a gift to Clark and his wife Ellen and how it ultimately meets its demise as it chews on the cord to the Christmas tree lights. While it always earns a big laugh when you watch the movie it also brings up the question of the appropriateness of giving animals to people who may be unwilling or unable to receive such a gift.
In our minds we often rationalize that someone needs a new pet since their last one just died of old age, after being hit by a car or of some disease. By using this rationalization we often misjudge the recipient’s feelings and long term plans. This person may have decided that this was their last pet as they now want to travel more. They may have decided that they can’t afford the costs associated with owning a pet or are now going to move to a place that has an inflexible No Pet Policy.
On occasion someone will get caught up in the holiday spirit and think it would be great to give Billy or Suzie a baby rabbit or some blue or pink dyed baby chicks for Easter. Some parents will give little Ralph or Molly a hamster or gerbil for their 8th birthday and try to wipe away the frowns on guests faces by saying that taking care of the animals “will teach the kids responsibility”. A few weeks or months later the parents will often bury the “gift” in the backyard if the child is still slightly interested in the animal that died from neglect. Pet turtles used to be very popular when I was a kid in the 60’s, but now due to the fact that commercially raised turtles usually carry Salmonella; little turtles are now thankfully unavailable for sale in this country. Baby chicks turn into adult chickens and unless your community allows chickens and a coop in the backyard, you will not be able to keep them. Snakes, bearded dragons, iguanas and salamanders are becoming more popular as pets, but these reptiles and amphibians have special ultraviolet light and dietary requirements that not every caretaker will be knowledgeable about.
If you are contemplating giving an animal as a gift to someone, please consider the recipient’s age, financial status, home environment and their desire for a pet…….as well as the animal’s housing and dietary requirements before you take that next step. I’d love to see as many animals as possible find homes with loving people who want them, so that the human lives will be enriched along with the lives of those delightful animals.
Tony Beane, DVM
Professor of Veterinary Science Technology
Board of Directors for the Potsdam Humane Society