Tis the season to be jolly, no doubt. But as we edge towards Christmas, I couldn't help noticing all of the pet shop windows filled with animals. And this got me thinking that sometimes the best of intentions can have tragic consequences.
Australians love their pets—53% of households have a furry friend. And there's no denying it's easy to fall for those cute little animals in pet store windows … (they don't call them ‘puppy dog eyes' for nothing)! Yet, most people have no idea where these animals come from, or the sad fate that awaits so many of them. So in hoping for a kinder Christmas for animals this year, here are 5 things you should know about giving animals as presents.
Animal shelters and pounds are already beyond capacity with abandoned and orphaned animals. Every year, some 250,000 healthy cats and dogs are killed around Australia, simply because there is no one who will take them in. When people buy animals from backyard breeders or pet stores, they literally destroy the chances of a shelter animal finding a home, and they put money in the pockets of those who are creating the overpopulation problem.
- Puppy Mills:
Sadly, most animals in pet stores come from puppy mills—factory-like facilities where animals live in miserable conditions—the mothers are treated as nothing more than breeding machines, until they reach their limit, and usually die. Puppy mills are factory farms for dogs and cats.
- The Commitment:
Post-Christmas, animal shelters receive more animals than at any other time of year. Why? Because adopting an animal is a lot of responsibility, and many people don't consider the commitment they are making, or that they are obliging someone else to make by giving them an animal. Consider this: Will you have enough time to exercise and train them? Will you have the money to feed them and cover vet bills? Do you have the space? These are important questions, and not easy ones to answer for someone else.
- An Unpleasant Surprise:
At some point we've all opened some present and thought “Oh god! What am I going to do with this?”, but unlike that shirt you'll never wear, or that book you'll never read you cannot pack an animal in a box and forget about them. Many people don't have the time, patience or desire to look after an animal. So that cute little fur ball may not give your loved one the pleasant surprise you'd hoped.
- Adopt & Desex:
Giving an animal as a gift is never a good idea, unless you've consulted the person who will be looking after the animal first. So if you're certain they tick all the right boxes and they've said they want a furry addition to the family, then here's how to put a smile on someone's dial and save a life: adopt from a shelter. Adopting from a shelter gives a home to an animal in need and helps to reduce pet overpopulation. And be sure to desex—desexing does more good than you can ever imagine. The world doesn't need any more dogs and cats—we need homes for the ones who are already here.