A puppy for Christmas!? Good idea, but ‘paws’ to consider these things, shelter says

What to consider before adopting a pet

The Columbia Animal Services is one of several places in the midlands where pets can be adopted.
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The Columbia Animal Services is one of several places in the midlands where pets can be adopted.

“Daddy, can we pleeeeeeeease!?”

If your loved ones’ wide-eyed pleas don’t get you, those puppy eyes probably will, and you might end up with a very cute, slobbery, wiggly little present underneath your tree this year.

Pets are a popular holiday gift — and they “can make great gifts, particularly if you’ve heard somebody mention it, or if the kids have been bugging the parents,” said Marli Drum, director of the Columbia Animal Services and the city’s shelter.

But you should take a few things into consideration before surprising someone you love with a pet as a gift, Drum said.

“These aren’t just toys you stick on a shelf when you’re done or it’s no longer convenient,” she said. “We love to see (pets as gifts). It’s a lot of fun. We just want people to remember there’s a responsibility involved, too.”

December is one of the busiest months for adoptions at the Columbia animal shelter, Drum said.

There are typically between 200 and 300 animals in the shelter’s system at any given time, Drum said, and they’re all available for a discounted adoption rate of $25 this month.

Stash Tim Dominick tdominick@thestate.com

If you’re thinking about giving a pet as a gift this holiday season, here are some things you should keep in mind, Drum says:

What’s the recipient’s lifestyle?

Do they live in an apartment? Do they travel a lot? Are they active? Do they have a yard? Are they, you know, allergic to cats?

Ask yourself some of these questions when you’re considering whether to gift a German shepherd or a Maine coon.

“It’s a great idea, but it’s a big responsibility,” Drum said of giving the gift of pet parenthood.

So consider whether your loved one is in a position to take on that responsibility.

If they would worry about a chewing puppy or curtain-climbing kitten, consider a more mature adult animal, Drum said.

If they might leave their pet home alone quite often, consider a couple of kitties to keep each other company, Drum suggested.

And if you’re a parent who’s told your kids, “We’re only going to keep it if you take care of it,” Drum said, “just plan on that being your pet. ... It’s going to be more or less your responsibility as the adult.”

Weigh the financial commitment

Pets are like children, Drum said — “They fall down. They hurt themselves. They get colds, skin issues.”

There are going to be pet-related bills. Can your gift recipient handle those?

Think long- term

FILE: Kasonna Kennedy meets a shepherd mix puppy at Pets Inc. Kennedy has one dog already and said, “I’ll have two soon. I can’t wait.” She is planning to adopt this one. File photo The State

It’s actually a myth that pets given as gifts are more likely to return to the shelter, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals.

Drum agrees; there’s no noticeable uptick in the number of animals returned to shelters right after the holidays, she said.

But pets might wind up back there in a year or two if you’re not thinking about the human’s and animal’s long-term future, Drum said.

A pet can be a 15-year commitment, so take that into serious consideration before making that commitment for someone else.

Is your person likely to pick up their life and move around in the next few years? Think about what kind of pet might best adapt with them.

And if you’re pet-shopping for or with a boyfriend or girlfriend, at least consider who will take the pet if, well, you know, things just don’t work out between the humans.

‘Sometimes, the pet picks you ...’

So consider a gift of a visit to the shelter, Drum said.

Often when picking out the perfect pet, “you need to come and take a look around yourself,” Drum said. “Sometimes the pet picks you.”

Maybe you wrap up a collar, a food bowl and a gift certificate to the animal shelter (they do offer those!), and tell your loved one, “We’ll drive over to the shelter tomorrow and pick one out,” she said.

The point is, Drum said, a pet “can be a super fun gift” — if you’re wise about how you do it.

“You’re not only giving a gift to that person, you’re giving a gift to the animal, too,” she said.

The Columbia animal shelter is located at 127 Human Lane. It is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Sundays.

The shelter’s “Home for the Holidays” $25 adoption special for all animals lasts for the month of December. A list of pets currently up for adoption is available at www.petfinder.com.

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Sarah Ellis has reported on Columbia and Richland County since 2014. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in journalism. She’s probably skipping happy hour to go to a County Council meeting.