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Thoroughly reconsider pets as gift

Each Christmas season, children (and a few adults) across the country include in their requests to Santa a dog, cat, rabbit or other living creature.

They want a lovable, cuddly pet. They promise they will feed it, walk it, clean up after it, take it to the vet and love it. They have no idea how much that will cost, or how much time and attention that will mean … they just want a pet.

Some gift-givers fall for it.

Then, a few weeks later, when the novelty has worn off, the first bag of pet food is empty and/or it is time for that trip to the vet … a decision is made. Once-begged-for animals find themselves dropped off at animal shelters, or worse, neglected or abused.

Maybe they get tied outside. Maybe they don’t get the medical care they need. Maybe they are “driven to a farm.”

Of course, some pets given as gifts are wonderfully loved and taken care of, and live happy lives with their new families. But that only happens when some important steps have been taken.

Bringing a pet into a family must be a whole-family decision.

There shouldn’t be any surprises (except, perhaps, for the very little ones). Everyone should agree on their roles in taking care of the pet beforehand — and the gift-giver must be willing to take on all responsibilities for the animal, financial and otherwise.

Yes, that means scrubbing the carpet after “accidents.”

Are you really ready for all that? If so, great.

There are plenty of dogs and cats awaiting new homes at local animal shelters. But if you have any hesitation at all, don’t do it.

If and when you are truly ready to welcome a pet into your home, there still will be plenty of furry companions available.

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