The gift of a furever home

Animal shelters warn people to not impulsively give pets as presents this holiday season

Jessica Rendell from Heavenly Creatures advises people to not impulsively buy or adopt pets as gifts. She says its OK to give children pets during the holidays, as long as the decision is well thought out. Ashley Sheppard/Kicker

Ashley Sheppard
Kicker News 

Roofer was just a pup when he was given to a family who was unable to take care of him.  

He was one of the more fortunate dogs though, says his new owner, Alicia Mahoney.

Her elder sister had good intentions when presenting Roofer to her dad as a gift this past September, says Mahoney. When she pitched him the idea of a getting new dog, he harped on how he was unable to deal with the financial burden, especially with a senior dog already at home.

Nevertheless, there was a pup awaiting him the morning of his birthday.   

“You might think that somebody wants a dog. But not know that they don’t have the financial responsibility to take care of one.”

Mahoney says her father had no choice but to decline the pup her sister thought he would be so happy to receive.

Her sister was then left with the task of finding the puppy a new home. She tried gifting him to her 18-year-old sister, then resorted to online sites like Kijiji and NL Classified, where people frequently try to sell and find their critters a new home. She was unsuccessful in her search for Roofer’s forever home.

“For me, he was a blessing. For somebody else, he could have ruined their life.”

Cindy McGrath works at St. John’s Animal Care and Adoption Centre. She says they don’t see a notable increase in animals being brought back to them after the holiday season. It’s likely that people who get pets as gifts, she says, are resorting to online sites to sell them once they realize the amount of care they require.

 Many are ashamed to admit defeat in caring for their pets, McGrath says, and refuse to return them to animal shelters. She says they often end up being carelessly sold online or given away to people who are sometimes not prepared to be pet owners.

Animal shelters have their guard up, too, when people come looking for pets this time of year. She says though they want as many animals adopted as possible, it’s important each potential owner is capable of taking care of their new furry friend for the long haul. That is why they will not adopt out animals to people who are giving them as gifts. It’s a part of their process – to get to know the person who will be responsible for the animal long-term.

“If they’re not prepared for a lifetime commitment, that’s when pets get returned, sold or given away,” said Mcgrath.

And there’s no way of knowing, says Mcgrath, if the person on your Christmas list is ready for that commitment. Only the individual can know.

After a rather impulsive conversation with her fiancé, Mahoney decided she’d take Roofer as her own. Though skeptical if they’d be able to make it work, she took the risk. And she says she’s beyond grateful she did.

Alicia Mahoney says that her dog, Roofer, is her best friend. He’s been in her life for almost three months now. Submitted photo

But she says it’s hard being a pet owner in your twenties while building a career and a home.

“It’s definitely not the best way to get a pet,” said Mahoney. “He’s my first puppy so I was very very unprepared. I didn’t know the first thing about owning a dog and had to learn pretty quickly.”

To avoid having people end up in similar situations, dog breeder Angie Janes says she turns away more customers than not.

“They want it for Christmas morning because of how sweet it is to have a puppy to open,” said Janes. “I’d say so many times the dog is given up for adoption, or it wasn’t what they thought when the cuteness wears off. I would never sell a puppy during Christmas.”

Janes says that any reputable dog breeder will refuse to sell puppies from their litter during Christmas. Breeders have the responsibility of taking back any dog that is returned to them after sale. The veteran dog breeder sees a lot of that after the holiday hype dies down.

Just a few days ago, Janes says someone called her inquiring about buying a dog for a loved one as a gift this Christmas. She refused.

Unlike Roofer, many animals end up in cages or in ads online, still awaiting their best friend. Mahoney says that though she ended up with her pup under unfortunate circumstances, she doesn’t know how she ever lived without him.

“For me, he was a blessing,” said Mcgrath. “For somebody else, he could have ruined their life.”

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