To gift a pet or not to gift a pet? |

To gift a pet or not to gift a pet?

Dear Henry,

I want to get my 5-year-old son a puppy for Christmas. What do you think, good idea or not?



Dear Marvin,

Great question. A puppy or a kitten under the Christmas tree may be very cute — that little face peering out of the wrapping paper and boxes — but is it really a good idea? Mom and dad may want to give a pet to the kids, or maybe you just want to give an animal friend to someone you think needs one.

People who give animals as gifts mean well, but their good intentions often go bad. Giving a pet as a gift is usually not a good decision. It can end tragically, which most often includes the animal being returned to a shelter or, even worse, with the animal getting injured (like being accidentally stepped on) during all the Christmas morning excitement.

While it is true that pets bring us untold joy and wonderful companionship, they are a huge responsibility. People who receive a pet as a gift don’t pay, but the gift is hardly free. It means a long-term commitment of time, money and energy that may exceed their abilities. Among the costs: food; bedding and toys; veterinary care; grooming expenses; time to exercise, play with and train the animal; and boarding or pet sitting expenses.

Here are some alternate ideas for pet giving this holiday season. If you are a mom or dad who wants to get your family a pet as a gift for the holidays we suggest making it a family adventure. Take a day and go together as a family to your local shelter. Pick out your new furry family member together before the hectic holiday time begins. This will give your new pet time to adjust and settle in so you can all enjoy Christmas morning.

If you want something for the kids to unwrap Christmas morning, wrap up some pet toys, not the puppy or kitten. If you are considering giving a pet to friend, go to the local shelter and get a gift certificate to cover the adoption fee, put together a basket with pet gifts in it and include the gift certificate. Keep in mind the Lake Tahoe Humane Society has a lovely selection of pet toys, collars, beds and other things that make great gifts.

PS: A friendly reminder that the extremely popular Tahoe Pets calendars have arrived. Come by the office at 884 Emerald Bay Road or order online. They make fabulous gifts for friends and family. Also, our winter raffle is back. For every $10 donation made to the Lake Tahoe Humane Society you get a raffle ticket for the winter raffle. Come on by the office or donate online.

Happy holidays,


Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Need some pet advice? Ask Hopeful Henry. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Visit, or

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