Choose wisely when giving pets as gifts

Parents should do their research before buying or adopting a pet for their child to make sure the animal they buy is a good fit.

Sun file photo
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 30, 2007 at 9:15 p.m.

This is the season for gift-giving and many parents may be considering getting their child a pet for Christmas.


Adopt-a-thon begins today

What: Home for the Holidays Adopt-a-thon

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today and and noon-4 p.m. Sunday

Where: South lawn of the Oaks Mall, behind Macy's

But making the decision to purchase a pet is not one that should be taken lightly.

"Purchasing a pet during the holidays can be a rewarding experience and bring great joy to a child and other family members," said Charles H. Bronson, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services commissioner, in a press release. "But you want to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable dealer who knows and follows the law to avoid what sometimes can deteriorate into an unfortunate situation."

Consumers should also consider suitability when purchasing an animal. For example, some breeds of dogs may be less appropriate if there are infants or young children in a home. Likewise, consumers may want to think twice before purchasing a large animal if they live in a small dwelling.

Amanda MacLeod, pet care manager for PetSmart, said that most parents who plan to buy a child a pet for Christmas usually buy the cage and other essentials without the animal. After the child opens the gift on Christmas, parents come back to the store to pick out the pet.

MacLeod said that dwarf hamsters and gerbils are the most popular selling animals. But if you are looking for a really good pet, she recommends rats.

"Rats are the best because they don't bite," MacLeod said. "They are very friendly and very smart."

She said that PetSmart sells all of the animals with a 14-day health guarantee, during which consumers can return a pet they have bought. All of the animals are inspected before they come to the stores. The facilities have also been inspected.

If anything happens within the 14 days, customers can bring the animal back. There is also a satisfaction guarantee, so if a customer buys two animals that start fighting or they realize that they made a mistake, they would be able to bring the animal(s) back to the store.

MacLeod said parents should do their research and make sure that buying a pet will be right for them.

"We want to find ÔDzforever' homes for our pets and want to make sure our customers are happy with their choices," she said.

Nikki McGinn, adoption and foster coordinator for Alachua County Humane Society, said she thinks children of all ages should have pets.

"I think that all kids should be exposed to pets, but it all depends on how much time and effort the parents are willing putting into it," McGinn said.

Parents of a toddler should take the child's age into consideration before choosing a pet. Young children may be too rough on a puppy but an older dog might be more tolerant of an active child.

"We have several adult dogs that love kids," she said. "They want to follow the child around and are basically attached to their hips."

McGinn said families that have little to no time should think about getting a cat. Adult cats are naturally potty trained and require a lot less time and effort than dogs and puppies.

It all just depends on the family's preference and lifestyle.

"As long as the family is willing to make a commitment, it is a great idea," she said. "If it is just something that is going to be fun for a minute, that's another story."

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