By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of DeSoto County Animal Services and Shutterstock
If you’re looking to adopt a pet this holiday season, understand both the process and responsibility required to care for your new family member.
Many families and individuals may view pet adoption as a thoughtful gift this holiday season, but those who work with animals in shelters witness all too often the issues that can occur as a result. Not surprisingly, they stress the importance of doing one’s due diligence before attempting to adopt.
“The image of a cute puppy with a ribbon under the tree seems heartwarming, but it may not be the best gift, especially if the person receiving the pet does not choose it or know it is coming,” says Monica Mock, director of DeSoto County Animal Services in Nesbit, Mississippi. “Pets take time, patience, money, and a lifelong commitment.”
Sandy Williams, executive director of The Tunica Humane Society in Tunica, Mississippi, agrees that these adoptions deserve well thought-out consideration. First and foremost, recognize the requirements of pet adoption — not just over the holidays, but for years to come, she advises.
“It is a lifetime financial commitment to care for a pet properly,” Williams says. “Emergencies come up with pets, just as they do with children. You have to be prepared for those emergencies at all times.”
If a child wants a pet for Christmas, the parent should do their homework by studying the different breeds and researching pet ownership and what is involved.
“Pets require training, food, water, shelter, and vet care, from shots to flea and tick treatment to spaying or neutering,” Mock says. “They also require your time and attention. Pets need to feel part of the family or pack, or they may develop behavior problems, such as separation anxiety, inappropriate potty behavior, or, if left outside, constant barking. These are signs that they are not happy and need your attention.”
Additionally, problems often arise when adopters are specifically interested in young animals, like puppies and kittens. Mock notes that fewer kittens and puppies are available during Christmastime and more are usually available from spring to fall, during which there is also a wider variety of breeds to pick from.
“If someone wants to add a pet to their family as a Christmas gift, we always recommend adult dogs or cats from our shelter,” Williams says. “With adult animals, you know what you’re getting on the front end. Puppies grow up, and most rescued dogs in our area are larger breeds. They may have started out in a home when they were very small but, sadly, they find themselves dumped in animal shelters when they grow up, or even worse, discarded somewhere on the side of the road. All shelters are bursting at the seams with loving, gentle, beautiful larger dogs that are just as deserving of a loving family.”
Luckily, organizations like The Tunica Humane Society take every adoption very seriously in order to place pets in loving homes. For those willing to commit to adoption, expect to fill out an application, and practice patience throughout the process.
“We want these to last a lifetime, so there is much thought and time put into our adoption process,” Williams says. “The Tunica Humane Society is not a walk-in shelter, where you just walk in and leave with an animal. We check many things from the adoption application that give us a good idea if someone is going to be a responsible pet owner.”
Finally, once the animal is placed, new owners should remain realistic about their expectations. Understand that it will take some time for the pet to acclimate to the new home.
“You cannot expect all pets to automatically be house-trained, know commands, and meet your immediate goals,” Mock says. “It takes time for the animal to adjust — sometimes months — so be patient. Some animals need a lot of time and
Even if you’re not in the market for pet adoption, you can still contribute this holiday season. The Long Beach, California-based organization Operation Santa Paws encourages animal lovers to give much-needed supplies to shelters everywhere during the month of December. Sandy Williams of The Tunica Humane Society shares what her organization especially needs this time of year:
Cleaning supplies, such as Clorox, Clorox Wipes, garbage bags, paper towels, washing machine pods, OdoBan; Blankets and old towels; Dog and cat food for the community food pantry (the shelter supplies food for animals in the area, for owners on fixed incomes); Dog collars and leashes; Cat food, canned and dry; and Cat litter.