December 24, 2008 14:24 ET

Pet's as Gifts?

How Much is That Doggy in the Window? Too Much Warns The Humane Society of Canada

Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor VANCOUVER, BC --(Marketwire - Dec. 24, 2008) - While many people have stopped giving pets as gifts, some well intentioned people still haven't got the message yet, namely that giving away living breathing animals with needs at Christmas time is a really bad idea, according to Al Hickey, Western Regional Director for The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).

As a part of its seasonal efforts to help animals, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is once again asking people to refrain from giving dogs, cats or other pets as gifts at Christmas or any other time. Often times these animals are purchased from pet stores who obtain their animals from puppy mills and large commercial-scale catteries or backyard breeders, whose bottom line is profit, resulting in puppies and kittens that suffer from disease and genetic abnormalities.

"While people on the receiving end of the furry gift will likely be surprised, chances are the surprise will not be a pleasant one," says Hickey. "Choosing a pet who will be a part of your member for many years is an extremely personal decision and not one to be taken likely. Those who are surprised with a pet are likely to be upset, even resentful, put outwardly may appear polite to the person who gave them the animal."

According to Hickey, another reason not to give pets as gifts is because the holidays can be hectic, even stressful, times. "Welcoming a new dog or cat into the family requires considerable time and patience, both of which are in short supply during the holidays. It is better to wait until the family can give all of the attention, guidance and love that an adopted four-legged family
member needs."

HSC Executive Director Michael O'Sullivan has little patience or understanding for those irresponsible people who use innocent animals to surprise someone at Christmas.

"The sad and totally preventable consequences of what happens to pets given as gifts should no longer be a surprise," states O'Sullivan. "Animal protection organizations have been publicizing the numerous negative impacts associated pleading with people who are carried away with the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, it is still a warning that needs to be given."

While some people can be upset or inconvenienced by receiving a pet, it is the innocent animal who suffers the most - often with his/her life!

"Pets can live anywhere from 14 to 20 years and in all fairness this should be the family and not someone else's decision.

"Pets who live with people who don't really want them are often not cared for as well as they should be and they will sense that they aren't really wanted. In some cases, families are so unprepared for the new arrival that they turn the animal over to a local pound where they join other animals waiting for a home which can cause the animal considerable stress when they are separated from what they thought were their families. Those who aren't fortunate enough to find new homes are killed," states a sad and angry O'Sullivan. "Children who receive such presents only to have them taken away later will also likely suffer considerably. All of this pain and suffering can be averted by exercising a little common sense and compassion."

A better idea is to make up your own gift certificate that reads: "Good for the adoption of a new family member" and in the New Year, visit your local humane society, shelter, SPCA or breed rescue group with the family and let them chose their new pet," says Hickey.

Thoughtful Alternatives to Giving Pets as Presents

* Surprise your friends or family with the idea of getting a pet that they personally select at an appropriate time by wrapping something the animal will need. Items can include: water/food bowls, pet care books, leash, collar, etc. Buying an HSC first aid kit will help in many ways. Not only could it save their pet's life some day, but the money spent buying the kit will help lots of other animals in need and reminds people that animals need love and care.

* Give a card indicating that you will accompany the person, when they are ready for a pet, to the animal shelter or pound and help pay for the animal or to have the animal spayed/neutered at an appropriate time * Instead of buying a pet from a profit making animal breeder or pet shop instead adopt an animal from your local humane society, SPCA, pound, breed rescue or local rescue group.

* Make a donation, in the recipient's name, to a charity like The Humane Society of Canada that helps pets here.

* Provide practical information pertaining to the care, costs, responsibilities and commitment involved in raising a pet. Don't forget dogs can live for 15 years or more while cats can live for 20 years - even longer!

O'Sullivan whose family has a houseful of pets says: "Each one of them has brought us tremendous joy and happiness. They give us so much and ask for so little in return. In every community across Canada, more than 15 million pets share our homes and our hearts. This holiday season; please help your friends and families chose their new family members, instead of trying to make that choice for them".

CONTACT: Al Hickey or Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has 6 grandchildren.

A father with two small children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, O'Sullivan has worked in Canada and in over 100 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. They carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, fund non-invasive scientific research, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

/For further information: IN: MEDIA

Contact Information

  • Michael O'Sullivan, Executive Director, The Humane Society of Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-368-0405
    Secondary Phone: 416-876-9685
    Toll-Free: 800-641-5463