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Surprise gift of a pet is a bad idea

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Dogs in an animal shelter
Dogs in an animal shelter

UNDATED (WSAU) -- Some gifts are better given at times other than Christmas. Donna Gilson from Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says a surprise gift of a pet is not a good idea, even in your own household.

Gilson says giving a pet to a person or a family is something that must be planned ahead of time, so everyone is ready for the commitment. She says too many pets are given during the Christmas season for the wrong reasons. “In February or so, the animal shelters are getting a lot of animals in that people got for pets at Christmas time, because they were a fad in a movie like 101 Dalmatians or something like that, or just because somebody gave them a gift thinking it was the perfect thing to give them and they really weren’t ready for the commitment of a pet.”

The holidays are also hectic. Gilson says that makes it difficult to take care of a new pet with unusual family schedules. “Don’t bring an animal into the house at Christmas time because it’s just so crazy. Most of us are gone a lot. We’re not keeping regular hours, or getting up at different hours, going to bed at different times, we’ve got company coming into the house, we’ve got Christmas decorations around that are temptations to pets. It’s just not a good time to be introducing an animal into a new environment and new people.”

When the times comes to get a pet as a gift, Gilson advises you match the pet to the person. She says you wouldn’t buy the same pet for your grandmother as you would for your active 25-year-old son. She also says buying pets from breeders requires caution. “If you’re going to buy from a breeder, insist on going to that breeder’s facilities and seeing exactly what conditions the pet was raised in. You don’t want to get a pet from a breeder that has dirty conditions, that they’re overcrowded, that taking adequate care of the animals.”

Gilson says if you find the breeder’s conditions are poor, you should just walk away, no matter how tempting it is to take the pet to better conditions in your home. Wisconsin breeders are licensed, and you can check with the Department to see if there have been any complaints against the breeder.

There is a loophole to be aware of. Breeders with less than twenty-five dogs a year do not need licensing, and Gilson says some of the worst conditions they have seen were small operations hidden in the basement of a house. She says that’s one reason buyers should visit breeder facilities before accepting the new pet.

Some exotic pets like prairie dogs cannot be brought into Wisconsin. Many others require veterinarian certification before they can be brought in.

Gilson says when the time is right, it’s always a good idea to check with local animal shelters while searching for that new pet.

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