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That Doggie in the Window: Do Pets Make Good Presents?

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The Animal Foundation

The cat Mai Tai awaits adoption.

Of the 1,300 dogs at Lied Animal Shelter in October, more than 500 were adopted. But more than 100 were surrendered by their owners, and 37 were also returned from previous adoptions at the shelter.

With the holidays here, many people might be considering adopting an animal as a gift for a loved one. 

Christi Dineff is the director of lifesaving programs at the Animal Foundation. She said the holidays can be a great time to adopt an animal. She said during the holidays people are off work and around family, which can make the process better.

“They really love to adopt pets sort of when they’re feeling in their family mode And we really love that. It’s really great for the animals in our shelter that they have those opportunities to go at that time,” she said.

Obviously, the Animal Foundation and other animal shelters want to find homes for animals but they also want to make sure the adoption is a good fit for everyone.

“We want to help people adopt. We don’t want to put stop signs up to adoption," she said, "We won’t categorically deny any old adoption, but we do want to make sure they go through an adoption counseling process so that we can help educate and provide information for adopters to really make those homes successful.”

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The foundation has adoption counselors who talk with people about their lifestyle, the size of their home and yard, how much time they can devote to the animal and lot more to make sure they make a successful match.

Dineff said the Animal Foundation has a return rate of about 5 percent, which is the national average. But, she added that returning an animal isn't wrong. 

“We like to be really clear that returns are not a bad thing necessarily. We want to make sure we’re making successful matches and people are finding the right animals for their family,” she said.

Dineff said when an animal is returned the shelter gets more information about the animal and how it acts outside of the shelter, which can help them find a better fit.

Sheryl Green with the Hearts Alive Village animal rescue had long been taught that giving an animal as a surprise gift is not the best idea, but her opinion has evolved.

“That was always what I grew up hearing is you never give an animal as a gift, but we are seeing that the return rates aren’t higher. The bonding isn’t lower,” she said.

However, Green cautioned that before someone decides to give an animal as a gift they should decide what they really know about that person. She said she has seen a lot of success with parents adopting a pet for a child but advised that couples who are newly dating should get to know each other before adopting an animal.

Veterinarian Dr. James Rayburn has seen a lot of newly adopted dogs come through his office. 

“The biggest mistakes I tend to see are people who don’t think about the secondary costs,” he said.

For instance, Rayburn said adopting an older dog could bring a host of problems people may not be aware of. He said many older dogs or dogs that have been on the street for many years can have problems with their teeth, which can cost a lot of money to repair.

He also cautioned people about knowing what kind of breed would work best for their lifestyle or circumstance. For example, a large dog in a small apartment can work as long as the owner is willing to take them out to the park often.

Another problem that Rayburn warns people about is bringing an animal home for the first time. He said people need to think about and prepare a feeding and sleeping area, especially if there is already a pet in the home.

“If you have multiple animals, make sure you have multiple places for them to feed from so they’re not trying to feed from the same bowl because that’s a great way to make a fight happen,” he said.

Rayburn also said it is really important to properly socially integrate new animals to a home that already has pets. Without good social integration, owners could have two pets who don't like each other and that is a recipe for a fight.

“Let them get nose to nose in controlled circumstances, having hands-on both of them so that way if it goes sideways you can immediately pull them back and then slowly integrating them in, making sure that they’re not being met at times for feeding,” he said.

Rayburn said animals that meet during feeding time will see each other as competition.

If you're not sure about permanently bringing an animal into your home, rescues like Hearts Alive Village offer fostering options or you can volunteer with the animals.

"Socializing with the animals. We have a cat cottage that you can come and sit in," Green said, "Just spending with them getting them more used to being around people," 

She said people can take their dogs on hikes or walks. All of that interaction helps get animals socialized and easier to adopt permanently.

RESOURCES:

ASPCA 

Humane Society

Dog Breed Selector - American Kennel Club

Guests

Dr. James Rayburn, VCA Animal Hospitals; Sheryl Green, Hearts Alive Village animal rescue; Christi Dineff, Director of Lifesaving Programs, the Animal Foundation

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