Getting A Puppy For Christmas: Problem Or Opportunity For Animal Shelters?

A muffled bark, the slight shaking of a suspicious-looking
package—families everywhere will wake up Christmas day to a
special Christmas puppy. Children will squeal with glee, and even
adults won’t be able to resist the magic of a cute bow-wearing
puppy scampering around the Christmas tree. It’s the kind of
holiday scene fit for movies and commercials, but no one ever shows
what happens once the bow comes off and the holiday season ends.
Giving pets as presents is an issue the animal welfare community
has been dealing with for generations. While a dog finding a loving
family in time for the holidays is never a bad thing, there’s
more to the picture than smiling faces and wagging tails.

For years, animal shelters and rescues have been aware of the
consequences of impulse puppy shopping. The same Christmas puppies
that bring so much joy on Christmas day grow into full-time
commitments their families aren’t prepared for. The scene of
happy children frolicking in the snow with a tiny puppy soon turns
into urine-stained
and chewed up couch cushions. Many of those puppies are
banished to the backyard, and others end up at the shelter.
There’s no denying that a spur-of-the-moment decision to bring
home a dog for Christmas is potentially problematic. Animal
shelters urge families to make sure they’re ready for the
responsibilities before they commit to a furry Christmas

All of that urging, however, doesn’t seem to make a
difference. When the holiday magic wears off and families go back
to normal lives and busy routines, countless Christmas puppies pay
the price of someone else’s well-intentioned, but poorly planned,
Christmas gift. Since spreading their warning message doesn’t
seem to work, many animal shelters and rescue organizations turn to
a different tactic. They suspend adoptions during the holiday
season in an attempt to save dogs from the stress and confusion of
being given up only a few months later. While the intention to save
shelter dogs from unnecessary disappointment is genuine, not every
animal advocate agrees with such an extreme measure.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, some shelters promote the
idea of giving dogs as holiday presents. With children out of
school and adults taking time off work, the holidays are
potentially an ideal time to welcome home a new dog. As long as
there are no holiday travel plans or stressful family gatherings,
the holidays give people a chance to slow down. Or in the case of a
new dog owner, it gives them the chance to help their new pup
settle in.

The New Hampshire Humane Society encourages people to adopt
during the holidays. They even have a history of delivering adopted
dogs to people’s homes on Christmas
. They’re not the only shelter that does this, Coastal
Humane Society, Louisiana SPCA, and Broward County Animal Care
& Adoption Center have also played Santa’s puppy helpers in
the past. Marylee Gorham of New Hampshire Humane Society
said in 2015

“The old policies of not adopting around the holidays are
considered outdated given that work schedules and family dynamic
are very different these days. Why create roadblocks where there
need not be? Accordingly, we’ll be ushering in happiness and joy,
shrieks and laughter, maybe a tear or two, by delivering pets on
Christmas morning.”

Janetta Harvey, writer for
, recognizes the need for change, but she also draws
attention to a different aspect of the Christmas puppy
problem—the support of puppy mills. She thinks shelters are the
solution. To make their dream of a surprise Christmas puppy come
true, many families (either knowingly or not) turn to puppy mills
and backyard breeders. In a hurry to find a puppy in time for the
holidays, they put their money into a market that thrives on
cruelty and abuse. Families don’t realize their puppy’s mom is
confined to a cage and produces litter after litter for the point
of profit. They don’t know the money they spent on their adorable
new puppy will go toward perpetuating the cycle of cruelty and
ensuring animal shelters never catch up to the demand of unwanted

In Harvey’s opinion, families are going to continue buying
dogs as Christmas gifts no matter what. And when shelters suspend
adoptions, they have no choice but to look elsewhere. But what if
shelters encouraged holiday adoptions? Instead of people resorting
to backyard breeders, they could
adopt from shelters
. She suggests shelters should take
advantage of the Christmas puppy idea and use it to help shelter
dogs find new homes. She says,

“Radical it may be to grasp the nettle, but if we accept the
fact that people want to bring a dog into their lives, and the
holiday season might be a good time for them to do so, we can
educate them on finding their perfect one in rescue.”

Shelters across the country share Harvey’s opportunistic idea,
and they fully promote adoptions during the holiday season. The key
to making sure those adoptions don’t turn into future surrenders
seems to be in a shelter’s adoption process. Debra Tranter,
founder of the Australian campaign group Oscar’s Law,
told Harvey

“We’ve never felt it necessary to suspend rehoming during
the holiday season.  Our interview process, and pre-adoption home
visit eliminates the possibility of “impulse” rehoming. Our
requirement that all family members meet any animal before adoption
rules out the surprise present.”

As long as families have seriously considered the commitment
dogs entail, Harvey and Tranter agree that the holiday season can
be an ideal time to adopt. The shining image that is the Christmas
puppy doesn’t have to end in a sad trip back to the shelter. With
the right approach, it can be the start of a beautiful new

What do you think? Should animal shelters
suspend adoptions during the holidays, or should they promote

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Getting A Puppy For Christmas: Problem Or Opportunity For Animal
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Source: FS – Dogs – iHD
Getting A Puppy For Christmas: Problem Or Opportunity For Animal Shelters?