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Pets are NOT presents -
 
Animals are not toys. They are sentient beings who, like us, require proper care to flourish. Although a giver might have good intentions, it is thoughtless and cruel to give an animal to anyone unless you are absolutely certain that the person wants this particular companion animal and is able to care for him or her properly.
 
Children Can Be Cruel
 
Intentionally or not, sometimes children are cruel to animals. Puppies, kittens, bunnies, chicks, baby ducks, and other young animals are especially vulnerable. Small children tend to be aggressive and can break animals' fragile bones or cause other fatal injuries.
 
Adoration may turn to apathy or even hostility when children lose interest in an animal who needs special care and feeding. The animal may then go without necessary care, and the child's parents or the adult who gave the child the "gift animal" may become impatient and "solve" the problem (of the now unwanted animal) by turning him or her over to a shelter or a pound or passing the animal on to a series of homes, causing trauma, psychological scarring, and behavioral problems.
 
Think Before Giving
 
Adding a companion animal to the family is a big responsibility. Adopting an animal is like adopting a child, in that it means making a permanent commitment to care for and spend time with the animal and to provide for him or her in case of one's absence for the entire life of the animal. Before adopting, consider the time and money involved in proper animal care. Will someone have the time and patience to exercise and housebreak the animal? Is someone prepared to pay for food, accessories (such as toys, a flea comb, and a bed), inoculations, and veterinary treatment including spaying or neutering and emergency care?
 
If a family decides to adopt an animal, everyone should go to the local shelter to choose the animal, having already discussed the obligations and longterm commitments involved. Also, it's necessary to be aware of local, state, and federal regulations that govern animal "ownership." Most communities require annual licensing for dogs and cats. In many areas, leash laws require dogs to be restrained on a leash when on public property.
 
Too Few Happy Endings
 
Animal care and control agencies are filled beyond capacity with animals no one wants. Many of these animals are former "pets" who were easily acquired but for one reason or another didn't fit into someone's lifestyle. Whether they are dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils, chicks, ducks, or goldfish, some people regard them as expendable. Animals are often simply abandoned on the road or in the yard when the family moves away. Others are passed on from home to irresponsible home as the novelty of having an animal wears thin at each successive place. Many people experience little or no guilt in turning an animal over to an animal control agency where he or she will likely be euthanized.
 
What You Can Do
 
Don't give anyone an animal as a gift unless you have discussed it with the person beforehand to make sure he or she is fully prepared to care for a companion animal for life.
 
If you attend a fair, flea market, or other event at which animals are being given away, educate those responsible. If people are offering a litter of kittens or puppies, for example, explain the risks of giving animals to unknown passersby: some people sell dogs and cats to laboratories or dealers, and others abuse, neglect, or abandon them. Ask PAWS for information.
 
If a business is giving away animals as a promotion, complain to sponsors, explaining what can happen to animals who are not taken by caring, capable people. The Arkansas State Fair stopped giving away ducklings as prizes when one was dropped from a Ferris wheel.(1)
 
Existing laws provide woefully inadequate protection for animals. Contact local, county, and state officials about getting more substantive laws for animals introduced and passed, and get involved with animal rights and welfare groups that can provide educational materials and help stop public animal giveaways. Get sponsors to save lives by giving a stuffed toy animal instead.
 
Contact PAWS Rescue for more info.