Puppy as a Present? Things to Consider Before Giving a Pet as a Gift

A Jack Russell terrier sitting on a package amongst holiday decorations

While it may seem Scrooge-ish to say “no” to a new puppy request from a child, many parents make the mistake of giving in. A few months later, that out-of-control adolescent dog seems less desirable, and the child is no longer that enthusiastic about daily chores and the like.

Each year, well-intentioned people make the mistake of giving a pet as a gift, causing thousands of animals to be surrendered to shelters because of poor planning. This is not to say that pets should never be presents. However, there are many things to consider before bringing a cat, dog, or other animal into someone’s life.

No Surprises: Get Consent

If the recipient in question is an adult who is a pet lover, he or she will forgive you for ruining the surprise by getting his or her consent for a pet in advance. Owning a pet is a huge responsibility, and the recipient needs to understand all the care requirements, including:

  • Veterinary and preventive care (spay/neuter surgery, parasite prevention, vaccinations, annual exams, etc.)
  • Daily time commitments for exercise, feeding, grooming, and interaction
  • Training and socialization needs
  • Household and yard space requirements
  • Financial investment (including necessary supplies and medical care)

An adult will also have preferences about type of pet, breed, size, age, health status, etc. which requires input.

Since you want to make the match a perfect and lasting one, skip the surprise and make sure you have total agreement.

When the Recipient is a Child

If the potential pet recipient is your child, it’s important to assume that – essentially – the responsibility of pet care will fall on you. Most children under the age of 12 will have limited ability to provide the care required for a pet. Therefore, it will be up to adult family members to tend to daily walks, meals, grooming, and so forth.

Of course, caring for a pet can be an (incrementally) good way to teach your child to be responsible, but this should not be left to chance. Adults in the home must be willing to assume all chores and financial responsibility, as well as teach the child how to blossom into a responsible pet owner.

Alternatives to Giving a Pet as a Gift

If you really want to surprise a loved one with an animal-themed gift, there are many other alternatives to meet your needs. For the child on your list:

  • A plush toy
  • A book about caring for pets
  • Games or other interactive toys that are animal-themed
  • A membership to a natural area, zoo, or aquarium
  • Volunteering at a local shelter with your child

For the adult:

  • A donation in their name to a favorite animal charity
  • Membership to a zoo or aquarium
  • Pet supplies
  • Paying the adoption fee or veterinary care for a year when he or she chooses that special fur friend

When you encourage your loved ones to adopt rather than shop, you also help save lives and discourage unethical puppy mills and backyard breeders. What an awesome bonus and a great way to feel good!

Please contact us with any questions or concerns about pet adoption or giving a pet as a gift.  

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