"Can we have a puppy for Christmas, pleeease?" It's a request echoed by hopeful kids around the country at this time of year. And while it's easy to get swept up by the heartwarming Youtube videos of children meeting their new furry friends, animal experts recommend against giving kids a pet as a present from Santa.
"Animals should not be considered as Christmas gifts or as a novelty item, but with the care and consideration of this lifelong commitment," says animal welfare campaigner Jeroen van Kernebeek, Country Director at FOUR PAWS Australia. "Christmas can be taxing enough without adding a stressed animal to the occasion."
With a staggering 90,000 euthanised dogs and cats a year in Australia alone, it's important that you carefully consider bringing a pet into your family - nobody wants to see their future Fido join death row.
Once the silly season has passed - and if the kids are still asking for a pooch to join the brood - van Kernebeek has these recommendations:
1 Think about it
Anyone considering adding an animal to the family should ask themselves if they are ready for the commitment. Being a guardian of an animal is a wonderful thing, but it takes a lot of work and responsibility, and is something that should be taken seriously. Make sure you have the space and the time to take care of your new animal friend, not just today or tomorrow, but for the long-term.
2 Consider adopting
When welcoming a new companion animal into your life, choosing to adopt from a shelter or rescue group not only saves the life of that animal, but also contributes to the ongoing fight against animal overpopulation and homelessness. Thousands of wonderful animals are brought to shelters every year not because of something they have done, but because their owners have had a change in situation such as moving homes, which leaves these once beloved pets in desperate need of a new forever home. Check out www.petrescue.com.au
3 Do your research
If you are buying online, ask yourself how you can ensure that the breeder you're thinking of buying from is ethical. You can really only ensure that you are about to buy a happy and healthy animal when you visit the breeder personally and insist to see where the animal was born and what the living conditions of the mother and father are.
4 Avoid puppy farms
These breeders focus on producing high volume animals and making money. Females are used merely to breed and are treated very badly. As most of the animals are continually made pregnant before fully recovering, their offspring can be predisposed to disease.
5 Ask questions
Asking the breeder all the right questions will help you find the perfect animal to join the family. Ask as many questions as you can, such as for the microchip and vaccination papers. What can they tell you about the breed? Does the animal require a lot of exercise? Is the animal child friendly? Essentially, people need to listen to their instincts. If something feels off, then find another option.
Going through these steps will help ensure your family welcomes a pet into their forever home - and you'll all be able to share many Christmas celebrations with your four-legged friend for years to come.