Animals Matter: Please don’t give pets as surprise gifts
While I normally don’t mind if people give pets as gifts if they are parents giving to children or adult children giving to parents or spouses or partners giving to each other (or some other mutually consenting relationship), I often caution against people giving pets as gifts in general.
Unless you know someone really well and discussed the potential gift idea in advance, not everyone is ready for the surprise or the financial obligation that comes with having a pet. That gift might even be less welcome during the pandemic.
Pets have provided companionship and relieved anxiety for those working from home or living alone who might be stressed from the pandemic. While national animal groups report an increase in adoptions across the nation in 2020, there also has been an uptick in the number of animals surrendered to shelters because of COVID-related financial challenges.
In fact, in a report by Mars Petcare, 20 percent of pet owners have considered giving up their pets in 2020 because of COVID-related financial challenges, and 13 percent have actually done so.
In Dallas, Spay Neuter Network suspected this might be coming. In early April, it launched the Pet Support and Resource Center to provide resources and services like pet food, vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries, to help pet owners keep their pets during the COVID crisis. So far, it;s helped 74 percent of owners keep their pets from the more than 2,000 surrender calls it received.
Cost is always a factor, but perhaps more so during a pandemic. According to the ASPCA, the first year of pet care can range from $1,174 (cat) to $2,008 (large breed dog), which includes spaying/neutering, vaccinating and microchipping the pet, basic pet supplies, toys, preventive care (heartworm, flea and tick), grooming and food. It does not include costs for sick or injured pets, pet health insurance, or boarding or pet sitting if you need to go out of town. It can cost several thousand dollars to take care of a dog or cat over its lifetime.
So, what do you do if someone you love wants you to get them a pet? Get them one as long as you have their buy-in and they understand what the pet could cost for the first year and annually thereafter.
But if they are unsure or facing financial uncertainties, talk to them about the costs of caring for a pet, and maybe suggest they consider fostering a pet for now.
Animal shelters and rescue groups need help right now caring for animal and would love to have more foster volunteers. They will cover the veterinary care and essentials while the foster volunteer has the joy of taking care of a pet until he or she is ready for a new home. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Send your pet questions, tips, and stories to email@example.com. You can read the Animals Matter blog at http://blog.mysanantonio.com/animals and follow her at @cathymrosenthal.