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Annual flow of 'gift' pets expected by local pet rescuers

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

By 3:30 p.m., on Christmas Day, Michele Bryant-Hall and staff at the Clayton County Humane Society had already received their first call.

A father had called the humane society interested in giving a puppy away, a puppy someone gave his son as a Christmas gift, said Bryant-Hall, executive director of the Clayton County Humane Society.

It was the first of what officials believe will be many at local humane societies and animal control shelters in the coming weeks.

"It's amazing," Bryant-Hall said. "We try so hard to recommend to people that they think before they get pets for Christmas gifts."

People routinely visit the humane society, mostly around the winter holidays, hoping to adopt pets as gifts for loved ones, she said, and they often get angry when officials discourage it.

"It varies from year to year," she said. "Invariably, between Christmas and New Year's, we'll get some [gifted pets]. I'd guess, the first couple of weeks after Christmas, we get from 15-20."

She says it is a recurring problem throughout the year for the humane society, which averages about 80 animals at any given time.

"People adopt pets for birthday gifts, too," Bryant-Hall said. "We stay full."

She advises that those who want to get a loved one a pet as a gift should consider obtaining a certificate from the humane society or animal control shelter.

"If they don't want them, my advice is to try to find it a good home," Bryant-Hall said. "People are enamored with the cuteness of puppies, but should consider the gift at length before they get it. It has a life span of 10-15 years, on average."

Katie Turner, of McDonough, said she hopes to have her newly adopted puppy nearly as long.

On Friday, she adopted Kikio - a small Corgi Terrier mix she named after a Japanese cartoon character - from the Henry County Animal Control Shelter. Turner's boyfriend, Alex McMillian, paid for the adoption as a Christmas gift for her.

"She kind of has everything else," McMillian said.

Turner, who grew up around household pets, said she appreciated the opportunity to have the pet of her choice.

"I get to look at her personality," Turner said.

She said she plans for Kikio to be an inside pet and a permanent addition to her family.

"Pet ownership is a life-long commitment," said Gerri Duerringer, director of the Henry County Animal Control Shelter.

The animal control shelter recently hosted an adoption drive, Dec. 15-23, and adopted out 46 pets.

"So far, nothing that was adopted was brought back," Duerringer said. "Each year, we get a few. So far, we've been lucky."

The shelter discourages the adoption of pets as gifts.

The better alternative, Duerringer says, is to allow the recipients of the adoption the opportunity to be a major part of the adoption by choosing the pet and learning how to care for it long-term.

"You're committing them to a life-long commitment," she said "Because animals are such a great commitment in terms of emotion, finances, and time. Pets are forever."

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On the net:

Clayton County Humane Society: www.claytoncountyhumane.org

Henry County Animal Control Shelter: www.co.henry.ga.us/AnimalCtrl/index.htm