Best Friends Blog
 

Debunking the Adoption Grinch

Tis the season for giving gifts, as long as the gift is not a pet … or so the Adoption Grinch would have us believe.

Adopting pets to the public that are intended as gifts, especially during the holidays, is a bad idea – or so we have been told – because they will likely end up like so much used tinsel once the novelty wears off and everyone comes back to reality in early January.

So sayeth the Adoption Grinch, and the Grinch’s dictum has been an animal welfare tradition for a long time now. In fact, not only is this the policy for thousands of rescue groups and shelters, these same groups often go on the PR offensive this time of year, warning about the dangers of pets as gifts.

That’s why, when Mike Arms, the trail-blazing adoption advocate, launched the Home 4 the Holidays end-of-year adoption drive in 1999, he got and still gets a lot of pushback from Grinchites who feel he is playing fast and loose with the safety of homeless pets. The fact that these same pets would likely die if they remain in the shelter system was not persuasive. Nor was the attendant fact that if someone wants to bring home a pet for Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukah or their celebration of the winter solstice, they will buy one from a pet store if they can’t adopt one from a rescue or shelter. As Mike has pointed out in many a presentation, we can’t leave the holidays to the puppy mills.

Now, what if the anecdotal evidence that the Adoption Grinch has been pedaling and that you’ve believed to be true could be shown to be false? What if a fact-based study published in the journal “Animals” proved that giving pets as gifts wasn’t so dangerous after all?

Well, that’s exactly what I have for you today.

Our friends over at the ASPCA conducted a survey of people who had received pets as a gift over the last 10 years. The results might surprise you.

There was no correlation between receiving a pet as a gift and a person’s emotional attachment to the pet. In fact, 86% of the pets that had been given as gifts were still in homes, and 96% of people said the fact the pet was a gift had no negative impact on how much they loved the pet.

Take that, Adoption Grinch!

Now, let’s be very clear. Rescue organizations and shelters still need to do their adoption process due diligence. It is also important that the same questions are considered by the adopter to ensure the right match is made. Check out our resource “Choosing the Right Pet for You.”

The fact that 9,000 animals are dying in our shelters every day should be compelling enough to thaw even the Adoption Grinch’s heart and get him on board with holiday adoptions.

Don’t be an Adoption Grinch. Together, we can Save Them All.

P.S. You can read the full ASPCA study by downloading this PDF file, and you can also check out Home 4 the Holidays.

Francis Battista
Co-founder
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Nadine

    Lets be totally honest here, it really depends on the reason and who the pet is being given to. I doubt very seriously that the ASPCA has gotten a survey from every single person that has given or received a pet for a gift. If they had, they would have gotten a totally different result. People looking for a pet for a small child as a gift is NOT a wise thing, as children on the average unless raised on a farm will not be willing to take responsibility for that pet, then mom or dad or both end up with all the care, and they end up getting burned out with trying to keep up with a puppy, kitten, dog or cat, and children also. Out the door the pet goes to either get killed, or they do dump them at shelters. ONLY if a family or person has been checked out thoroughly should the pet be released as a gift. Considering that the person at times is not the person adopting the pet, it is impossible for the shelter to check out the person receiving the pet as a gift as the person giving the pet as a gift does not want the “surprise,” being sprung prior to Christmas, birthday, anniversary of whatever, and so on and so forth.
    I do think instead of people going to puppy mills they definitely should be adopting, however, as a gift, the person receiving should be just a screened as the person giving, and if it is a small child, to me it is a total no no. If that child is of the age it can accept the responsibility of the pet, and shows it will and can properly care for the pet, then great. However, 2, 3, 4, or even up to 8 years old are NOT capable of accepting that responsibility unless they have been raised around animals and been taught from birth about proper care of animals. I am a farm girl and know how little so many people know about proper love and care of animals. To way to many they are either a status symbol, or cute for a while then they tire of them. If giving pets, an older, settled person that has voiced wanting a pet as a companion is acceptable and shelters are exactly where they should be looking for that pet.
    Sorry this is so long, but I have seen first hand the disaster giving pets as presents has ended up being.

  • George

    As the co-founder of Cupid’s Bridge Animal Rescue we find about 600 animals furever homes a year. About 5% of our adoptions are done in the month of December as Christmas presents and in the 3 years of our existence we have only had 1 of these animal returned. We also do followups and home visits to check on all our adoptions. I’ll take those numbers any day.

  • EMC

    17 years ago we got our boys kittens for Christmas. One white and one black. They named them Sugar and Cocoa and loved and treasured them for the last 17 years. The first shelter that we went to turned us away telling us that they don’t allow adoptions as Christmas gifts (even though we were parents gifting to our own children).
    We went on to find 2 kittens and our boys were shocked and thrilled Christmas morning.
    We lost both the cats this year. Cocoa after a long battle with hyperthyroid and then kidney disease, Sugar succumbed to cancer only 2 months later. Both of my grown kids say that the cats were the best gift they ever got and I feel that they were the best gift I ever gave. I am glad that we got the cats that we got, since I feel that they were meant for our family, but I feel bad for all the pets at that first shelter that may have missed out on their chance for a family.

  • Barbara Saunders

    I love the names. I had a “Pepper” and “Salty” as a child, and a “Marmalade” and “Mocha” later on.

  • Sara Bartlett

    BUT, before giving a pet to an elderly person, make sure they want it and can care for it. many who have dementia get a pet and cannot remember to feed it, to let it out when needed, or to take care of the pet if it is an outdoor animal. I see many neglected dogs and cats whose owners are old, never make a gift unless a thorough exploration of desire and ability is taken.

  • Carol Tutzauer

    There was an article in our local paper only today that warned about giving pets as gifts. Bah Humbug!

  • Goldielover

    All of our four cats were gifts. Our oldest, who is now 11, was a Christmas gift from me to my then eight year old daughter. He is still her most treasured possession. Our youngest came three years ago, when my daughter was sixteen, and spent her birthday money on a cat who had been stuck in a pet store window for the past 11 months. (To be fair to the store, she was well cared for and up to date on shots. They were so happy to finally get her a home that they gave us as much food and toys as we could carry.) My daughter considers that she is her birthday present to herself. I think most sixteen year olds would have spent the money on clothes, music or trinkets, but my daughter only wanted the calico cat we had been watching for so long. The other two were given to me at separate times by a friend. Both are former ferals – one came from a feral rescue group, and the other was captured as a tiny kitten by my friend from a colony she used to feed.

  • objoyful

    Several of our local rescues suggest giving an adoption gift certificate, if one wishes to give a pet as a gift. That way the recipient can come in and see which animal(s) they really mesh with or think would do well in their family, the rescue can more easily follow all of their usual adoption processes, and the giver can still keep the surprise. Personally, I think that’s a pretty good way of handling both the pros and cons of giving animals as gifts!

  • Stuart

    We are three days away from the anniversary of holiday adoption we did last year. We adopted a senior dog Dumpling who flew in 3 days before Christmas. Never have we had a better Christmas present!
    While I may not recommend a surprise adoption, I can’t think of a better way to share the joy and love of the holidays. We have truly been blessed.

  • donkey200

    I want that puppy in the picture!

  • Shanna Davis Grandvalleypitcre

    I have tremendous mixed feelings about this. I personally don’t like the ASPCA’s new mantra of no barriers to pet adoptions.
    I will only adopt a dog during the holidays if the pet is not a surprise for the recipient. If the family is all in agreement and the recipient is involved too, then I will do it. I work too hard to get the dogs in my rescue beyond their issues they came to me with. I’m going to do everything possible to hopefully place them in forever homes where they are well cared for and loved. If that makes me an adoption Grinch…..so be it.

  • Cometzero

    2 years ago in Nov one of our 2 very loved dogs passed very unexpectedly. Not only were we crushed but Roxy our other dog, was heart broken, wasn’t eating , just laid around instead of running and playing like she did with her buddy. We planned on waiting until after the Holidays, to get a new puppy, since it seemed the “sensible” thing to do instead of bringing a new puppy into the house w/ all the decorations and such a busy time. But we kept checking the local shelters and there weren’t any puppies at the time and we wanted a puppy.
    It wasn’t a starting out to be a very merry Christmas since we all missed Zero and were worried about Roxy, we just all kind of went thru the motions of decorating shopping etc.. I decided to look at the Best Friends site, since I knew of the great work they did from watching Dogtown to see if they had any puppies that might be available in the new year. I saw the cutest puppy and fell in love with him just from his picture and bio, but was sure since he was so cute, he must already have someone in the process of adopting him. I decided IF he was available I would try to adopt him even tho he would be ready to go to his forever home the week before Christmas, earlier than we planned. I decided he would be the perfect gift not only for the people, but hopefully would help Roxy have a Merry Christmas too.

    We were thrilled to find out he could join our family and since it was Christmas we were able to have him fly to New Jersey free, thanks to the kindness of others and the great program Best Friends has.. Boo came home on Dec 23 and our whole house changed, He brought the joy back and it ended up being one of the very best Christmases ever. Not only were we happy to have a new puppy to love and play with,but seeing Roxy running and playing w/ her puppy was wonderful to see. I didn’t realize there wasn’t laughter in our house until I heard everyone laughing again. We were SO glad we didn’t wait until later to adopt like so many people recommend when they say don’t give pets as gifts. I think the way Best Friends runs their programs and checks to make sure the animals will be going to a good home who know what is involved with having a pet, makes sure the animals will live long happy lives with their forever families. It would be sad to make animals spend the holidays in the shelter, even very nice shelters, instead of being with a loving family just because some people wrongly think you shouldn’t give animals as “gifts”. As has been said when a person is looking for a pet, not letting them adopt during the holidays, only makes it harder to adopt a pet and sends people to find a pet another way, giving business to pet stores and puppy mills.

    Two years later and Boo still brings such love and happiness to our home and lots of love to Boo. He even has the neighbors “trained’ to give him treats when he is out back playing.. He and Roxy are inseparable and play until they drop and then usually snuggle when they rest up. I can’t imagine our family without Boo as a member of it and say thanks often to whatever or WHOever made me check Best Friends that day. We were just talking about how Boo was one of the best gifts we ever had, and I was in the middle of getting pictures to write my update to best friends, so I was thrilled when I opened my email and saw the picture of Boo we all fell in love with as the picture for an article about adopting pets as gifts. YES that picture of the puppy at the top of this blog is our Boo and I think a perfect example of how great it can be for both people and the animals when you are able to adopt pets as family gifts..

    Thank you again for all you do and most especially for letting us bring Boo into our Family that Christmas.

  • katboxjanitor

    This is one of my favorite ways to suggest to friends if they want to give a pet for the holidays.

    The twist I have suggested is to include the option to donate what would be the adoption fee if the recipient just doesn’t want to take on the commitment of a pet…they can know they helped a pet while it waited for its forever home.

  • bunnylover

    I think adoption gift certificates are the way to go and a good compromise. Choosing a companion animal is too important to be left to chance. The adopter and the animal need to be well-matched & that is what adoption counselors at shelters and animal rescues are trained to do. I’m a rabbit lover and I see my local shelter flooded with unwanted Easter rabbits during the summer months. It’s the same thing every year: parents/grandparents getting a baby bunny at the feed/pet store for a kid & having absolutely no idea what is involved in proper care of the animal. Rabbits are NOT starter pets & require more care than cats & dogs! ASPCA & Best Friends, I am really disappointed in your change of policy re: gifting animals. Would like to see you post the hard scientific data you based this decision on for all to see.