A recent study by a national animal welfare group frowns on animal rights activists' long-held belief that giving a kitten or puppy as a present is a bad idea, but the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals still advises against such a lively surprise.
Keeping with its mantra for the last two years, the local SPCA is encouraging people looking to give an animal for the holidays to do so through a gift certificate. The element of surprise, according to Adoptions Director Laurie Routhier, can be simply meeting and selecting the perfect kitten, puppy, cat or dog.
“It's so much fun to see if they have chemistry with the animal and see them in the adoption center and see them transition to the home,” she said. “So I think part of the fun of the gift certificate is seeing the fun in that experience.”
The “Should Dogs and Cats be Given as Gifts?” study published in October, however, builds on research in the late 1990s and 2000 showing that pets obtained as gifts are actually less likely to be relinquished.
In random calls to the general public in July, 222 people said they got a cat or dog as a gift in the last decade, and 96 percent of them said the way they received the pet had no impact on their love or attachment to it. About 86 percent of those pets remained with the family until they died.
While the assumption may be that people are too busy during the holidays, some individuals may actually have more time on their hands to take on the commitment as a pet owner, said an author of the study, Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA.
“It can be a fantastic time for people, so when we have these blanket statements around don't bring a pet home for the holidays, that's not necessarily true for so many people,” Weiss said.
Routhier said she was “very happy” the study reflected so much love for the animals, but that the SPCA still discourages against people adopting animals that would be a complete surprise to the new owners. The SPCA's retention rate, she noted, is 89 to 94 — better than the 86 percent reported in the study.
“We practice 'open adoptions,'” Routhier said. “What that means is we make an effort to work with every client based on their individual wants. What we want to do is come up with a win-win situation.”
The SFPCA has seen a 26 percent increase in adoptions from July 2011 to July 2013, according to Routhier, and continues to encourage them with a special waiver of adoption fees Monday to Friday through Jan. 5. But, the surprise may very well be a pet gift certificate.