Opinion | Gifting pets for holidays is irresponsible

By Megan Harding, Columnist

Now that December has started, the holiday shopping season is underway. Holiday gifts come in all shapes and sizes — even round and fluffy. 

Dogs, cats and Petco favorites like hamsters and bunnies are common gifts for children during this time. Gifting a pet to someone with the time, money and interest is one thing, but an impulse buy can have consequences for both the owner and the animal.

Parents who give pets as presents to young children fail to realize that children have the tendency to abandon their interests quickly. In a month, they might be bored and ready to move on to the next exciting thing.

Depending on the child’s age, they might not have the skills to be the primary owner. Parents assume they can rely on the child to feed the pet and perform other chores surrounding the pet’s care — but they have to be prepared for the responsibility to fall on them if their kid fails to take care of a living animal.

For this reason, pets become neglected or eventually given away when the adult realizes nobody in their family can commit to caring for an animal after all. 

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    There is often an influx of pets being surrendered a few months into the new year, which is most likely from haphazard purchases made during the holiday season. In America alone, over 6.3 million animals end up in shelters every year. 

    Cats and dogs are only some of the pets that are bought and surrendered; people are sometimes under the assumption that if an animal is small, they require less care. 

    This is not always the case. Despite pet store advertising, animals such as rabbits or guinea pigs require large enclosures, a well-balanced diet and many enriching toys.

    Pet stores advertise small animals to children by creating small enclosures that look like toys and selling accessories such as clothes, beds and leashes that look fun but are dangerous to the animal’s well-being. 

    Since animals are advertised as a commodity, people overlook what they are agreeing to and are even less likely to research the proper care.

    Just like any other company looking to make a profit, pet stores are no different. The more pets they sell, the more money they make — even if it is at the expense of the animal. 

    If somebody is serious about buying a pet, they should instead look into buying from a shelter. Unlike pet stores, shelters are not responsible for unethically breeding animals and they pay more attention to ensuring pets are not falling into the wrong hands. 

    Giving a pet as a gift reinforces the idea that instant gratification is valued more than commitment.

    Parents should look for alternative gifts that still bring instant gratification, yet avoid harming a living being. There are many toys that resemble caring for a pet, such as stuffed animals or robotic pets that move around and make noise. 

    Children can freely play without worrying about the fragility or commitment that comes with a real pet. They can learn about what caring for an animal means — but there is also an off switch for when they get tired of it.

    It is tempting to want to buy an animal; they are cute and fun to play with. But it is important to consider how the animal’s quality of life will be affected if the only purpose it serves is the ‘wow’ factor on Christmas morning. 

    Megan is a freshman in Media.

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