Animals can be a wonderful addition to a family - just not when they're gifted to an unsuspecting recipient during one of the most chaotic times of the year. The following are some reasons why:
1.They can't simply be "re-gifted". An embarrassing reindeer sweater from Aunt Edna, a useless gadget or a tacky tie are easy enough to return, re-gift or toss in the attic and forget. But animals are living, breathing, feeling beings who can't be re-gifted if they don't suit a person's fancy.
2. A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. Sure, that kitten or puppy might look cute peeking out of a red stocking on Christmas morning - but adding an animal companion to the family is an important decision that requires making a lifetime commitment to care for him or her. Remember: a new puppy or kitten could be a part of the family for 15 years or longer.
3.Animals aren't like other gifts. They require lots of time, patience and money - all of which are scarce during the holidays. If you're thinking about giving a furry friend as a gift this Christmas, stick to the kind found in toy shops.
4.Worst. Gift. Ever. Cute puppies won't seem like much of a "present" after they chew up a priceless heirloom, decide to use the Christmas tree as a toilet, bark through the night and rack up hundreds of pounds in vet bills on vaccinations, sterilisation and flea and de-worming treatments - and that's just when they're healthy!
5. It's a stressful time of year. Between hosting house guests, cooking up a storm and travelling to see the in-laws, Christmas and New Year can get pretty chaotic - making it tough for even a well-adjusted animal to settle into his or hew new home.
6. It contributes to animal homelessness. In the days, weeks and months following the holidays, already overwhelmed animal shelters across the country will be flooded with animals who were given as gifts, only to be tossed out along with the tree when the novelty wears off or when their guardians discover that caring for rambunctious puppies and kittens is a full-time job.
7. The consequences are dreadful. Many centres reach capacity within the first few weeks of the new year, when the tidal wave of surrendered animals hits after the holidays, leaving shelter workers to face the heartbreaking prospect of having to euthanise healthy, friendly, loving cats and dogs because of a lack of space and resources to care for them.
8. Kids are irresponsible (because, well, they're kids). It's great to teach children about responsibility, but after the puppy love wears off (and it often does very quickly), parents are the ones who are left to do the dirty work - literally!
9. They can put serious pressure on the purse strings. The food, toys, insurance, vaccinations and vet bills can quickly add up. According to The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, a dog will cost between £16,000 and £31,000 over his or her lifetime. Don't give someone the gift of debt.
10. Animals are not "one size fits all". All puppies, kittens, rabbits and ferrets look cute - but that doesn't mean they will be compatible with your loved one's activity level, experience and personality. For this reason, it's important that the animal is suitable for the lifestyle and temperament of the person who will be responsible for him or her.
If your loved one is prepared to make a lifelong commitment to a furry dependent and has plenty of time, money, patience and love to give, consider giving a "gift voucher" for an animal from a local shelter. That way, the recipient can decide which animal is best for him or her - and when. Plus, you'll be giving more than the gift of unconditional love and companionship - you'll also be giving the gift of life to a homeless animal.