We’ve all seen the heartwarming Christmas commercials: A little girl or boy comes down the stairs on Christmas morning. They stop suddenly, a look of rapturous joy comes to their face. The camera pans to the puppy (or kitten), complete with a big red bow around their neck, frolicking beneath the tree. The scene ends with the child hugging the new pet, giggling and laughing as it bathes their face with kisses.

It’s a tradition to give pets as gifts on special occasions, such as birthdays or holidays. But it is a good idea? Against what some will tell you… repeated surveys show that pets as gifts is a fabulous and successful idea! yes, it is!

Studies conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in the 1990’s and 2000 found that pets acquired as gifts are less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired by the individual. Specifically speaking, 96% of the people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet and 86% of the pets that were given as gifts are still in the home. The survey also revealed no difference in attachment based on the gift being a surprise or known in advance. 

An additional study from 2013 revealed the same results.

Animal welfare organizations like PETA insist that it’s a bad idea to give pets as gifts, despite the fact that this belief is unfounded.

“Denying adopters who intend to give the animals as gifts may unnecessarily impede the overarching goal of increasing adoptions of pets from our nations’ shelter system,” the ASPCA’s 2013 survey summary concluded. “We found that receiving a dog or cat as a gift was not associated with impact on self-perceived love/attachment, or whether the dog or cat was still in the home. These results suggest there is no increased risk of relinquishment for dogs and cats received as a gift.”

Like the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the Nature Coast supports the idea of giving pets as gifts but recommends that pets are given as gifts under the following conditions:

1) The person or people receiving the pet as a gift have already expressed a sustained interest in having one

2) The person or people receiving the pet as a gift are physically and financially prepared to care for it responsibly and

3) The pet to be gifted was obtained from animal shelters or rescue organizations rather than being purchased from people or places where the source of the animal is unknown or untrusted.

The best part of adopting animals in shelters is that these pets are thoroughly vetted for health and behavioral issues and have already been spayed (or neutered), have received all their age-appropriate vaccinations and have likely received a microchip. These things alone will remove the burden of those responsibilities, and the expense, from your intended recipient. Best yet, your loved one will not only receive the gift of a new companion — but they’ll also know they’ve helped find a homeless pet a forever home.

“When you give an animal as a gift know it’s going to be a 10 to 15 year commitment,” Humane Society of the Nature Coast (HSNC) Director of Development advises. She added that HSNC conducts “an extensive vetting interview for adoptions to minimize the return rate,” which HSNC keeps below 3% yearly.

Try this idea! Rather than presenting a pet as a gift (and having to find a place and a way to keep it a secret) why not just pay the adoption fee at a shelter and present the recipient with a stuffed pet and a note informing them where they can go look for a new fur family member on their own! This way, the person or people can get prepared for their new family member in advance. They can buy the beds and bowls and collars and leashes… and of course, the toys. Then they can go to the shelter and interact with the animals and select the one that’s right for them!

Have you received a pet as a gift or are thinking of giving one to someone during the holidays? Share your thoughts and questions with us in the comment section below!