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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pets Aren't Fruitcakes

With the holiday season fast approaching, this is a good time to write about something that bothers every veterinarian I know, which is the concept of giving a pets as presents. If you stop to think about it, you can easily figure out how this might not be a good idea, but in case you can't, I will explain.

A pet (and I'm talking mostly dogs and cats here) is an ongoing expense, and a LOT of work. When you give someone a pet, you are giving them a tremendous amount of responsibilty that they may not have asked for. Those of us who love our pets (and consider them family members) are willing to deal with the accidents on the rug, the chewed-up furniture, the need to skip happy hour so we can let the dog out, the smelly litter box, the humongous vet bills, and all of that...because WE agreed to these things when we got our pet(s).

However, if you aquire a pet involuntarily, all of these issues become yours for the next 10-15 years. Merry Christmas. As a veterinarian, and especially in my position of County Veterinarian, I have witnessed what can happen when someone gets a pet they didn't ask for. Usually it's the pet that suffers the most. These innocent animals are neglected, resented, and occasionally abandoned or abused. That's a tragic thing for a creature who mostly wants love and companionship. Sometimes, the owner tries valliantly to do right by their unwanted pet. But this can be sad too. I've had several nice folks bring their "gifts" to me for regular check-ups and illnesses, but with every visit they say, "You know, he's a nice dog - I just didn't ever want him. I feel guilty saying this but...I'll be glad when he's gone."

We animal-lovers know how special and wonderful it can be to have the companionship of a beloved pet (or pets in most cases!) But there has to be just as much commitment and devotion from the owner as there is from the animal. The decision to become a pet-owner, and what type of pet to get, is one that should take a lot of thought, and should never ever be made for someone else.

Can't decide on what to give someone? Give them a fruitcake. At least no one is hurt if that gets neglected or discarded.