Think twice before giving pets as gifts

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Staff | December 5, 2013

MADISON – The idea of finding a fuzzy puppy or kitten as a gift under the Christmas tree sounds so tradition, but gift-givers should think about what a pet entails after the holidays are long gone, cautions veterinarian Yvonne Bellay.

“Getting a pet is a serious choice, and a commitment.  It should never be a surprise,” Bellay said. “And even if you know the recipient wants a dog, cat or other pet, and maybe even wants this particular one, wait until later. Bringing an animal of any species into a home during the chaos of the holidays is a bad way to start the relationship.”

Adding to the problem is the fact that animals in popular movies too often  result in some species or breed getting to be a fad – and in animals that show up in shelters a few months down the road. Family members might think a dog or cat is just what their elderly or lone parent needs, especially during the holidays, but don't think of the remaining 364 days of the year.

“Resist all those temptations, because you're not doing either the person or the pet a favor,” Bellay said. “Talk it over first, and if that person really wants a pet, do the research and get the right pet – in January. Instead of the pet itself, give some supplies for Christmas, or even some reading material to help get ready for the pet's arrival.”

She offers more advice when choosing a pet:

• Match the pet to the person. Consider lifestyle, space, and financial demands. Is a dog, a cat, a ferret, a good match? What breed of dog? Consider exercise needs, grooming, need for attention, and costs of feeding and veterinary care. Find resources for choosing pets on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection website.

• Don't buy from a breeder blindly. Insist on visiting the breeder's facilities to see how the animals are cared for. If the facilities are bad, walk away. If you buy an animal just to get it out of those conditions, you're rewarding bad behavior and setting more animals up for neglect and abuse.
• Exotic animals are rarely, if ever, a good pet choice. They have special nutrition and health needs that may be expensive to meet, and finding veterinary care may be difficult. Reptiles often carry salmonella, and pose a risk especially to children. Some cities prohibit ownership of exotic animals, and some may not be brought into Wisconsin – prairie dogs, for example, and some African rodent species – because of disease threats.

• Get a certificate of veterinary inspection, or CVI, if you're bringing any animal into Wisconsin from a different state. The seller should provide the CVI, but if not, it is your responsibility to have the animal checked by a veterinarian and get the proper paperwork. If you are buy a dog from a licensed seller in-state, the seller must provide you with a CVI. Small in-state sellers who don't need licenses do not have to provide CVIs. 

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