Don’t let holidays lead to heartbreak for an animal
When I was 4 years old, I got the best Christmas present ever. After months of pestering my parents, they finally got me a dog. I named him Bingo and smothered him in hugs. I showed him off to my friends and, once the snow melted, paraded him up and down the sidewalk. And about six months later, I completely forgot about him. Poor Bingo got left behind while I rode my Big Wheel and built castles in the sandbox.
But Bingo didn’t mind, because Bingo wasn’t a real dog. He walked and barked, but he was powered by batteries, not a beating heart. Sure, I was a little disappointed at first, but I’m so glad that my parents resisted my pleas for a puppy. They knew that my promise to feed, brush, play with and walk a dog every day would last about as long as the cookies I left out for Santa. And they were honest enough to admit that our family simply didn’t have the time, resources or ability to make a lifelong commitment to an animal at that point in our lives.
Unfortunately, every year, many people make the mistake of giving a living, breathing animal as a present to someone who isn’t pre- pared to care for a furry dependent for the next 15-plus years. When this happens, real dogs and cats fare far worse than my Bingo did.
A new puppy or kitten may be the center of attention for a while, but reality soon sets in. Animals make messes, chew on things, shed, whine, bark and need constant attention. Veterinary bills, food, toys, beds and leashes take a toll on bank accounts that have already been drained from holiday expenses. And few families can give new animals the attention that they need during the busy holiday season, which is a recipe for failure. Leaving animals alone for long periods with nothing to do and no way to go outside to relieve themselves results in clawed couches, chewed shoes and puddles on the floor.
Families find themselves overwhelmed, and once-- adored animals find themselves banished to a backyard chain or pen for the rest of their lonely lives, or jailed in a crate all day while their guardians are away — which deprives them of their basic needs and can lead to lifelong behavioral problems, including separation anxiety and aggression. Other animals are dumped on the streets or in rural areas to face death from starvation, hypothermia, attacks by predators or collisions with vehicles.
Some families do the right thing and take their unwanted animals to a shelter, where they will be cared for and have a chance of finding a new home. But abandonment is a traumatic and heartbreaking experience, and shelters must euthanize many animals because there aren’t enough homes for them all.
Please don’t let the holi- days end in heartbreak for an animal. If you are certain that your loved ones are willing and able to give a dog or cat a lifelong home, wrap up a bowl, a leash and/or an adoption sponsorship certificate from a local animal shelter. That way, they can choose an animal who is a good match for their personality and lifestyle after the hectic holiday season has passed.
And if your Christmas just isn’t complete without an animal under the tree, wrap up one from a toy store — not a pet store. Stuffed pups and kitties are sure to delight, and they don’t mind being returned, tossed in a box or even “regifted” next Christmas. Pollard-Post is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation.www.PETA.org. She wrote this for McClatchyTribune News Service.
Santa Steve Stickley holds Edward, a mixed-breed, earlier this month near Winchester, Va. SCOTT MASON / WINCHESTER STAR / AP