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Gazette Premium Content Think twice - at least - before giving a pet as a gift

LANCE BENZEL Updated: December 20, 2011 at 12:00 am

Attention holiday shoppers: Please pass by that doggy in the window.

That’s a bit of friendly advice from animal advocates in the Pikes Peak region, who want gift givers to think long and hard before surprising a loved one with a dog or cat this Christmas.

They warn that along with those floppy ears and wagging tail comes a lasting responsibility — one that may be too noisy, energetic and expensive to be considered a proper gift.

And unlike an unwanted toy, they say, animals aren’t so quickly snapped up from the bargain bin.

“That’s something not a lot of people think about when they look at a cute, cuddly puppy,” said Erica Meyer of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, which often sees an influx of unwanted pets after holidays, from chickens and bunnies after Easter to dogs and cats following Christmas.

While the right pet can warm any household, buying a companion for a loved one without discussion can create unforeseen difficulties. Animal advocates ask potential gift givers to consider:

• No matter how doleful their gaze, puppies may be too noisy or energetic to be considered an appropriate gift, especially for someone who is gone a lot or is sedentary. (And don’t forget those early morning bathroom breaks.)

• That ball of fur also known as a great Pyrenees pup? Soon he’ll weigh as much as 180 pounds, creating a space crunch that few can easily accommodate.

• Kittens may be cute and small, but what will happen to the cat when your teenager moves away to college?

• Pets are expensive, especially in a faltering economy. Caring for a large dog can cost as much as $875 a year for food, medical treatment and other recurring needs, and owning a cat can run $700 a year, according to the nonprofit American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Prospective pet owners should learn about an adult animal’s size, activity level, propensity for shedding and other factors and talk to a professional about how a specific animal would fit into his lifestyle and household.

“Let them go pick out the ones they like — they’re going to be the ones who have to live with that decision,” said Paula Ward, a veterinarian technician at Bijou Animal Hospital in Colorado Springs.

A gift certificate toward adoption or spay/neuter fees is a safe way to surprise the animal lover in your life, said Lauren Fox of All-Breed Animal Rescue and Training in Colorado Springs. An animal lover also might like a donation made in her name to a local organizations that assists animals. On a trial basis, a family may elect to be a “foster family” for rescued pets awaiting adoption, Fox said.

Parents considering adding a pet to the household should accept they will end up shouldering part — and perhaps most — of the burden, Meyer said.

“We never recommend getting a pet, ever, without a full family discussion about it,” she said.

“And obviously, we always say ‘Don’t shop – adopt.’”

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