Holiday Pet Gifting


Animal welfare experts are urging people not to surprise a loved one with a pet under the Christmas tree.

“It should be something that people talk about and give it a great deal of thought,” said Brenda Dobranski, Founder of Rescue Dogs Match. “It’s a 10-to-20 year commitment.”

Adopting a dog should be a decision everyone in the family discusses. There are many factors involved with adopting, including allergies, high-energy dogs, and the biggest factor — training.

Giving a dog as a gift is a concern for shelters and rescues, which need to be able to see all active members of the family before allowing an adoption to be processed.

Holiday pet gifting. (Photography done by Nicole Calhau / Sheridan Sun)

Holiday pet gifting. (Photography done by Nicole Calhau / Sheridan Sun)

“If someone is coming in to adopt for another person, we don’t want to do that. We want them to bring the person,” said Karen Reichheld, manager of Adoptions and Animal Care at the Hamilton and Burlington SPCA. “We don’t adopt animals out as gifts.”

The importance of having all family members of an adoption present is to ensure the dog is going to a good home and won’t be neglected two months down the road. It’s also a way to erase the uncertainty people might have about the type of dog they’re adopting and help them learn some training skills.

“You don’t know if the person wants one, and even if they do want one, it’s their choice of physical appearance and personality, which is most important,” said Karen Partington, dog foster and trainer from Waterloo, Ont.

Experts urge waiting until there is time to train, care for, and spend time with the dog — and to think past the holiday season.




Bianca Roy, social media and marketing director, says the Save Me Rescue offers a program that allows them to interact with potential adopters to make sure everyone in the family is on board.

“If they’re all not on the same page, we won’t let them adopt,” said Roy. “Everyone must be on the same page.”

Save Me Rescue and Rescue Dogs Match close during the holidays and reopen in January to help prevent people choosing dogs as gifts.

They say pets are sometimes returned in January and February when the family realizes they can’t handle the responsibility.

No one, including children, should view a pet as a toy, according to Dobranski.

Purchasing a pet on impulse can help enable puppy mills, which raise dogs in poor conditions and remove them from mothers too soon.

“We don’t want to support them,” said Partington. “We have these backyard breeders that create designer dogs that have no health checks, no temperament matching, and no socialization.”

Donations can aid animals and help everyone feel warm and fuzzy at this time of year. You can donate in someone’s name, foster a dog, and/or volunteer at a local rescue or shelter. Many shelters and rescues have lists of needed items on their websites.

These rescues are among many that accept donations:

The Dog Rescuers Inc. 

Save Me Rescue 

Rescue Dogs Match 

Lab Rescue