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Give a Gift of a Dog or Cat This Holiday season!

Dr. Emily Weiss follows up on a previous post that stirred up some good conversation in the comments!

A few weeks ago I wrote about our new research around pets as gifts. Our research adds to the existing data that indicates pets obtained as gifts are not at a higher risk of relinquishment—and, in fact, much of the research shows that they are likely to be at a lower risk of relinquishment. You can read more about the research here.

My first post on this subject elicited some great supportive comments, as well as a lot of comments from readers who were not comfortable with the idea of pets as gifts.  (Okay, I am understating that a bit. There were several who said things like, “Adopting animals as gifts for others is absolutely irresponsible.” Also: “I guess this study never touched lower Texas. Every dog that has been given as a gift has been returned or found dead on the road. We would never allow anyone to adopt a pet as a gift for someone else.”)

Change is scary, and going against convention can be even scarier… but here is an example where we have the data. Further, what do we think happens when that person who was denied for the adoption of a pet as a gift leaves the shelter? Yes… he finds another option to obtain a pet. And we lose the opportunity not just to save a pet in our shelter, but potentially we increase the pool of intact animals in the community, and certainly we have lost a supporter and friend.


SPCA of Texas posted this pic of a boy and his new pup—a gift—on Facebook


If there is concern that the gift recipient won’t be prepared, how about increasing your revenue by offering a “starter kit?” For dogs, include bowls, food, some good enrichment devices, a proper collar, ID tag (with the receiver’s contact info on the tag—placed directly on the dog before he leaves the shelter), no-pull device if needed, a good “New Dog” info brochure and your contact info for questions. For kitties—dishes, food, proper litter and litter box, toys, a proper collar and ID tag (the cat should leave with this on), a good “New Cat” info brochure and your contact info for questions. 

We are hopeful that this data can help those that still have a policy of “no gifts” to remove that policy and embrace the notion of dogs and cats as gifts. Imagine the dogs and cats who can leave alive through endorsing and promoting pets as gifts!

I love this video from a volunteer at Charleston Animal Society featuring Brutus, who was adopted as a gift. Note that he fits some risk categories—big, brown, maybe identified as a bully mix… Brutus may not have had many folks interested in adopting him, but thanks to Charleston Animal Society’s open door for pets as gifts, you can see Brutus being delivered to his new home on Christmas Eve:



Special delivery of that dog or cat adopted as a gift—what an amazing way to change the face of the shelter within the community! Bert Troughton blogged about this concept last year highlighting a great program conducted at ARL Shelter and Wildlife Center in Pittsburgh

These nifty delivery programs can be a great way to dip a toe into pets a gifts—you get a window into the life that pet will have—and provide a lifelong memory for that family.

So… are you ready to give it a try?


Related links:
ASPCA Research: Pets As Gifts
Blog: “Pets As Gifts—Wrap ‘Em Up!”
Blog: “Very Special Delivery”



What would be awesome for shelters/adoption facilities to offer is a 'gift card' that covers the cost of adoption plus that starter kit mentioned earlier. That card can be redeemed at the shelter by the recipient, so they can vet the potential adopter on site. If it turns out to be someone with a criminal record of abusing or neglecting animals, the shelter can provide a refund of the fee. This way, there's still the wonder of having a new pet enter the picture, with the added joy of meeting the animal and seeing how the rapport works. I would personally never want to adopt an animal I hadn't met (and that hadn't met me!), because sometimes, you just connect with a pet on first meeting, and it may not be the one you thought you might want to adopt.


I totally agree (except for the refund part, Thanks for the donation!). I believe you need to experience the energy of the animal prior to adopting. What would have happened if Brutus and Ariel (in the video) had instantly hated each other? We don't know the back story and they may have met before, etc but if not, that's pretty risky and then what happens to Brutus' stress level when he's brought back to the shelter? Adopting is a very personal, bonding experience and although the goal is to get the animals to their furever homes, the bottom line is to make sure they stay in that loving environment, not get dropped off again because it didn't work out...


We get very little in life without taking risks. The idea that any organization or individual can guarantee a forever home by operating from within highly restrictive general guidelines such as those I have heard  in veterinary practice ("no other pets", "no children", "fenced yard only", "no apartments", "no older people", "no younger people", "higher than avergae income." etc) is in my view faulty and counter productive. It is so refreshing to read Dr. Weiss' post and her experiences which contradict the "conventional" "wisdom" on this. While reasonable standards before adoption to ensure the animal a good chance are prudent, too many restrictions just consigns some animals to longer internments or never leaving the shelter at all. I recently helped place a kitten into the home of a terminal cancer patient, enabled as a gift from his children. I expect the family will find the cat its final home, afterwards. If not, I have agreed to find that home myself. Who would deny this poor man companionship in his final months or year?

I applaud Dr. Weiss courageous stand in this area and also the Charleston shelter's wilingness to take calculated risks to identify permanent homes for the needy animals in its care.


good for you Arnie.. and I agree


Sponsoring the  idea of giving an animal as a gift is an irresponsible suggestion.   ALL AKC -affiliated breeders of dogs ( that some would like to suggest *always* end up in shelters---a point of view I highly dispute) specifically will not allow puppies to leave as a gift unless to a very experienced home.  A good share of the folks coming to the shelter may not be "experienced homes"....and the thrill of the holidays, the opening of doors multiple times ( leading to escaped dogs), the wrapping, the ribbons, the shrieks of children, the squeaking and tweaking of toys are all not the best environment for establishing a calm, nurturing environment for a newly arrived, and perhaps stressed, dog or puppy.  ( kittens and cats will find their own level of sequestration....and probably will fare okay).  

It would be much more appropriate to buy a doggie-care package with the stipulation that breeds and types of temperament were decided before picking out a dog or puppy at the shelter. 



Nothing like putting back into the system an animal already abandoned, possibly neglected, likely un-vetted and with social or emotional issues of some kind.  Placed into harms way with someone who may not have the proper lifestyle, home dynamics or expertise to handle the issues that may evolve, is just setting them up for failure.  The human frustration and inability to handle any issues, will cause the animal being shuffled once again into the system that was supposed to help them find a safe haven where they would be loved unconditionally for life, not until they cause a problem or are deemed "bad animals" because the caretakers have no idea how to correct potential issues or even know where to turn for help should they have the decency to make the effort.  They have no investment in the animal and feel no obligation for making it work.  Easy come, easy go.  We are doing the animals no favors by allowing them the emotional anguish of losing yet another family that gives up because it is too inconvenient.  I find it difficult to believe that any responsible person would allow a pet out of their care without doing a home visit and vet reference check BEFORE letting the animal get their hopes up again, only to potentially be dumped again, and maybe this time it won't be at a shelter.  Hopefully the new family will not have any members who are intolerant and who get frustrated and angry when their new pet does something wrong, like chew their favorite book or furniture, piddle on the wall to wall carpeting, throw up or get otherwise suck, nip someone who us being too rough, barking or howling too much, etc.  That's how abuse is born.  It is correct that there are no 100% promises that every single adoption will work out, but we owe it to the animals who depend on us to give it our best effort.  It is the least we can do.  If it is too much work, maybe one should rethink their reasons and level of commitment for being in their positions.  Homes at any cost are not homes, they are someone's idea of statistical superiority for numbers of animals placed.  The individual animal's safety and well-being must be first and foremost at all times, not numbers.


Janice, Jenny Jennifer and Lori - The data points to pets given as gifts being less at risk for relinquishment, and for the act of receiving the gifts INCREASING their attachment to the pet.  When someone who loves and cares for you chooses a pet for you, they may be better at remaining objective and choosing the pet that best matches you! 


Arnold - Thank you so much for sharing tha powerful story!  Humane is for the humans too...

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