Do it right and a pet makes a great festive gift, but do it wrong…
The exciting idea of presenting a lively puppy or fluffy kitten as a festive gift to a member of your family sounds great in theory, but what are you giving when the excitement has worn off?
The number of unwanted pets goes through the roof during the festive season. Many buy pets as gifts, the cliché puppy with a bow is sadly still a novelty that people do not learn from. But what happens the next day or the next week when puppy and owner realise they maybe are not compatible? Puppy urinates on the precious rug, baby is allergic to kitten’s fur, rabbits aren’t as interactive as the buyer expected, the owner realises an exotic bird was not as easy to care for as it seemed. What happens then?
Animal rescue shelters, re-homing groups and charities become inundated after inconsiderate buyers realise they cannot, in fact, accommodate the animal they so lovingly purchased.
Though the festive season is not as central in the UAE as in other countries, it seems the same buyer’s remorse is ever present. Jackie Covill, of Sandy Paws animal rescue group, says most shelters struggle at specific times of the year. ‘At Christmas, as in other countries, as well as after Ramadan and Eid sadly we experience a dramatic increase in abandoned animals. It also occurs before the summer holidays too.’
Many animal welfare websites urge animal-lovers to wait until the festive season is over if they want to get a pet, particularly given people’s hectic holiday schedules.
Imagine the horror when one mother, who bought her seven-year-old daughter two bunny rabbits, responded to the question, ‘What will you do when the male and female mate?’, with the answer ‘I don’t know, I will throw them away.’
Sadly, Sandy Paws isn’t the only animal shelter struggling. Jackie says, ‘It seems to be very much a culture here of giving animals to each other without people thinking about long term consequences of owning a pet for life – and you need to consider the shipping costs for your pet when you leave the UAE. Cats can live to around 14 years so it’s a long-term commitment, and we won’t home a cat to a family unless they accept that the cat will leave the UAE with them when they go. It’s shocking how many people want the animal just while they are here and then want to get rid of it – even to the extent of putting the animal to sleep.
Sandy Paws takes on many such animals as well as those who have been literally thrown onto the street.’
It can be particularly challenging, because many families will give up the animal a couple of months after Christmas, causing the pet grief and confusion. Add to that the already overwhelming amount of abandoned pets in the UAE – the shelters in the country house and re-home thousands of animals every year, most of which are donor-funded.
The moral of the story? Don’t buy pets as a gift, and if you really want one then try fostering first. Shelters will be more than happy to foster pets out on a trial basis. Jackie says, ‘Rescue organisations such as Sandy Paws are desperate for foster families now – even if for only a week or two to get animals off the streets and safe. We also need donations to help abandoned animals – this money goes straight to the vets to help cover our costs which are always running high.’ Sandy Paws, email firstname.lastname@example.org (050 667 4220).