FROM HSUS - Who doesn't melt when they see adorable puppies with red bows tied around them leaping about in a pet store window? In December, holiday shoppers find them so irresistible that they are eager to pay top dollar to surprise someone on Christmas morning with a cuddly pup under the tree. Buyer beware says The Humane Society of the United States.
According to Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for companion animals at The HSUS, "The puppy-under-the-tree scenario has a great image but the reality is not always as warm and fuzzy as we'd like to imagine. A dog is a precious purchase that will be in someone's life for an average of 15 years, so it should not be an impulse buy. And for consumers who insist on buying a dog as a gift, they should never -- under any circumstance -- buy one from a pet store where most of the 'inventory' come from puppy mills and you just might end up giving the gift of a very sick or dying animal."
She recommends the following holiday gift-giving tips for consumers wanting to give a healthy, happy dog as a gift:
Be practical: Consider giving a gift certificate covering the adoption fee at a local shelter, rather than choosing a dog for someone else. Wrap the certificate with a dog bowl and toys so there is something to unwrap. "Not as cute as a live puppy, but a much more thoughtful decision for the animal and the recipient." It is best to let the recipient pick out the dog they connect with, rather than you picking out the one that you connect with.
Do your research: Does the recipient have the time to exercise a dog daily? Are they ready for the expense of vet bills and any emergencies that will come up? Do they have time to train a dog? How do they feel about dog hair on the furniture?
Where to start: Once you determine that you want to give the gift of an animal for the holidays, shelters are the best place to start. One of four shelter dogs is a purebred, and adopting from a shelter will save you hundreds of dollars, and save a life.
Alternatives: No luck at the shelter but still want to buy a puppy as a gift? Number one tip, according to Shain, "Find a reputable breeder. A responsible breeder will NEVER sell a puppy to someone who they have not personally met. No one should purchase a dog without physically visiting where the puppy was born and raised. Pet stores and online dealers will tell you what you want to hear to move that puppy out and stock the cage with another."
Beware: Most dogs sold in pet stores – and via the internet -- come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are mass breeding facilities where dogs are crowded into cages and puppies are churned out with little regard to their health or to sound breeding practices. Mills often hide behind the "legitimacy" of a neighborhood pet store. The worst gift you can ever give is the puppy who looks fine when you pick her out at the store, then "crashes" after a day or two. "Your gift will end up costing the recipient thousands of dollars, not to mention Christmas heartbreak. It happens way too often around the holidays."
Free guide: To make this process easier for anyone looking to buy a dog, and for free information on adopting, rescuing or finding a reputable breeder, check out the new brochure "Puppy Buyer's Guide" from The HSUS. Visit www.puppybuyersguide.com or send your request to HSUS - Puppy Buyers Guide 2100 L St., NW Washington, DC 20037.