Whatever you do, don’t give your kid a pet for Christmas

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.
In Brief Legal Writing Services owner Alexandra Bogdanovic's cat, Eli.
Eli under the Christmas Tree. Christmas 2013.

No matter how much little Sally begs, no matter how many times little Johnny promises to be good, and no matter how “cute” you think it would be — do everyone a favor. Please, please, please do not give your child a pet for Christmas. Or Hanukkah, or any other holiday you celebrate at this time of the year.

True, lots of dogs and cats desperately need good homes. And yes, adopting a pet is wonderful. It’s fantastic. Speaking as someone who adopted/or otherwise “rescued” all three of my cats, I highly recommend it. But not if you’re doing so for the wrong reasons.

Think about it. By definition, a domestic animal is largely dependent on people for survival. So whether you adopt a dog or cat from the local pound, or buy a pet from a breeder, you are responsible for that animal’s well-being — for the rest of its life. That means you’d better be prepared to provide that animal with food, shelter, and medical care — for the rest of its life. That also means that you’d better be prepared to meet that animal’s emotional needs — for the rest of its life.

And yes, our pets do have emotional needs. After all, they are incredibly intelligent (probably more intelligent than most people give them credit for). They are incredibly perceptive. They can express themselves — and they have phenomenal memories.

They are not just “property” as defined by American law. They are not just “things” as defined by certain humans imbued with  an overwhelming sense of their own superiority. They are not disposable.

Consequently, reputable shelters frown on “impulse adoptions,” and have policies in place to prevent them. At the shelter where I volunteer, visitors must have an appointment in order to meet the dogs available for adoption. “Drop-ins” are encouraged to visit our website to learn about the available dogs and fill out a pre-adoption application before making an appointment. Prospective adopters that make it through the initial screening process must also provide references before the final adoption goes through. Depending on the circumstances, the entire process can take several days.

Think about it. You can’t adopt a child on a whim. So why should you be able to adopt a pet on an impulse?

To learn more about why giving your child a pet for the holidays is a bad idea, click here.

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