By Johnny Jackson
"Pets are forever, not just for Christmas," said Gerri Dueringer, director of Henry County Animal Care and Control.
Pet adoptions are typically more frequent this time of year, leading into the holiday season.
Adoption returns, likewise, increase in the first week following New Year's Day. The reason is that a lot of new pet owners were unexpectedly given the pets as holiday gifts.
"We often receive our highest number of returns the weeks after Christmas, because people have been given an unwanted pet," said Dueringer.
Gifting pets is a perennial dilemma for shelters receiving an influx of well-intending people wanting to give their friends and relatives the gift of a new pet to care for.
"But pet ownership is a real personal thing for most people," she added. "People should be able to make the decision of having a pet or not. Pets should not be thought of as disposable."
Pets should not be adopted on the spur of the moment, particularly during the holidays when homes are bustling with visitors.
"You might want to wait until things quiet down before adopting a pet," Dueringer continued. "The holidays aren't necessarily a horrible time to do that. But adding a pet to your family should be a well-though-out decision. It should be a responsible decision."
Officials suggest that people avoid adopting or purchasing a pet to be given as a gift to another person. They suggest giving pet supplies and certificates as gifts to pet owners and would-be pet owners.
For those who want to adopt pets this holiday season, Dueringer advises them to spend the extra money to have the pet "vetted" or checked out by a veterinarian before adopting it, to be sure it is healthy, or can be made well, if it is sick.
Parents interested in giving their children pets, should be sure they, themselves, are compatible with the new pets.
"When the new wares off, parents are going to be the primary caretakers of these animals," she said.
Family pets can also participate, cheaply, in the family's holiday festivities by being included in the Christmas photos. There are also various toy, supply, and novelty gifts at local retailers for pets and pet owners.
Dueringer warns pet owners about the lesser thought-of issues surrounding pets during the busy holiday season. "Things like chocolate can be poisonous," she said. "Be careful with the treats. It can quickly cause upset stomachs.
"Make sure the stockings aren't on the floor on Christmas morning, and be careful with tensile and decorations."
Pet owners should watch to make sure their cat or dog does not get tangled in Christmas tree lights or garland, and that packaging and fragrant Christmas gifts are kept a safe distance away from the animals.