There is usually an increase in pet adoptions during the holiday season, when a furry companion often seems like a perfect gift for an animal lover.
Before making that decision, the Humane Society of Northeast Florida, Inc., and the Alachua County Humane Society is encouraging people to seriously consider the commitment of pet ownership and whether the person it’s meant for can properly care for the animal.
Gifting animals sometimes means imposing responsibility on someone who may not want it, said Amanda Burks, executive director for the Alachua County Humane Society.
“We don’t say it’s necessarily a horrible idea, but we encourage people to really think about it before they make that choice because it’s such a huge responsibility,” Burks said.
The Humane Society of Northeast Florida tries to protect its animals from impulsive adoptions around the holidays, said employee Cindyy D’Agostine.
“Adoptions do pick up around the holidays, so we just try to scan the people as best as possible,” she said.
D’Agostine said people should take all the demands that come with adopting or purchasing an animal into consideration.
“All the needs an animal will have should be considered, such as its training and health,” she said. “Pets will leave our center heartworm free and then be returned to us testing positive for heartworms.”
Both Burks and D’Agostine recalled pets being returned after being given as gifts because the people receiving the animals couldn’t take care of them.
“We had someone a few months ago adopt a dog for his wife shortly after their family pet passed away,” Burks said. “The dog came back the next day because the wife just wasn’t ready.”
D’Agostine said numerous dogs were returned to the shelter after the 2012 holiday season.
“We had 14 dogs returned this past April,” she said. “Sometimes it takes a few months to upwards of a year before the animals find their way back to us after the holiday season.”
There is no penalty to return a pet, D’Agostine said, and if a person or family doesn’t wish to keep the animal, bringing it back to the shelter is actually encouraged.
“We do always take back pets and try to re-adopt them,” she said. “We have people fill out forms to say why they are bringing the animal(s) back, and we get the same responses saying someone has died and is no longer able to take care of it or someone’s kid has allergies — most people make up excuses.”
The Humane Society of Northeast Florida will travel to retrieve animals that have been dumped or taken to kill shelters.
“We went as far as Georgia to pick up a cat one time that was just dumped,” D’Agostine said.
Although college students make up a significant portion of Alachua County residents, Burks said students aren’t the greatest contributors to animals being returned or abandoned.
“It does happen, but the biggest reason isn’t because college students are dumping them,” Burks said. “There isn’t a huge influx regarding semesters.”
As the holidays approach, Burks and D’Agostine said people should think mainly of the big impact a pet as a gift could have on someone else’s life.
“A pet is forever,” D’Agostine said.