This article is about the myth of the Christmas puppy and why it’s important for shelters to increase adoptions over the holidays.
If shelters and rescue groups refuse to adopt out puppies on Christmas Eve, people are going to get puppies somewhere else.
They’re going to buy puppies from breeders or pet shops. They’re going to get puppies through Craigslist or from free listings in the classifieds.
They’re not going to adopt from shelters or rescue groups, and that’s a direct failure on behalf of these organizations.
Animal shelters must adopt out dogs and cats over the holidays. They must encourage dogs and puppies as gifts. They must promote the idea of the Christmas puppy.
Why do some rescue groups refuse to offer holiday adoptions?
Because of fear.
Rescue groups obviously want the dogs to go to good homes, and they often have an irrational fear that dogs adopted out as Christmas gifts will just end up back in the shelter system.
Really though, there is no evidence to support the myth that dogs given as Christmas gifts are more likely to be returned. The opposite is actually true.
Why the holiday season is the perfect time to adopt a dog
I love the idea of the Christmas puppy.
While the holidays might not be the right time for some of us to adopt a new pet, it’s actually the perfect time for others.
The kids are home from school to help out. Adults are often able to take off a few extra days from work. For some of us, the world seems to slow down from about Dec. 23 to Jan. 1. It’s a time to catch up. Spend time with family. Sleep in. Relax.
OK. If you’re adopting a new dog you might not be doing much sleeping in or relaxing, but you know what I mean.
Around the holidays, many of us are able to “check out” from some of our other obligations for a while. We can focus more on family and on a new pet.
Myths about Christmas puppies
There are a few rescue groups out there that remain confused. They believe if a meme gets 1,000 Facebook shares it becomes a fact.
The following are some myths you may hear this season, and what you can politely tell someone in response to such myths.
Myth #1: “Christmas is the worst time to get a dog.”
Well, it depends on who you are. Let’s remember that much of the world does not even celebrate Christmas. It’s just another day. For others, the holidays are a time when it’s easier to take time off from work and help a new dog settle in to the family’s routine. Others may receive a Christmas bonus from an employer and may want to use the money to purchase pet supplies.
Myth #2: “Dogs should never be given as gifts.”
I can’t think of very many gifts that would be better than a dog. It’s just a matter of giving the gift responsibly.
For example, perhaps you pay the adoption fee for your daughter’s dog but then she is the one to pick the dog out.
Or maybe you give your husband a puppy, but you let him know in advance so he can be involved in the selection and preparation process.
Myth #3: “Holiday puppies will end up in shelters.”
The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy did a study on what “breaks the human-animal bond”  and causes people to surrender their pets to shelters.
“Received pet as a surprise gift” was not listed among the top reasons people gave up their pets.
According to its 2009 study “Exploring the Surplus Cat and Dog Problem”:
“ … dogs received as gifts were much less likely to be relinquished to an animal shelter than those who were acquired directly from an animal shelter, a friend, a pet shop, or as a stray.”
That doesn’t surprise me. Most of us know someone who has received a pet as a gift and in fact loved that pet very much.
I received my cat Scout as a free surprise gift from a friend and my life has revolved around him ever since. I love my cat with all my heart.
The study listed the following as the top 10 reasons people surrendered their dogs to shelters:
2. Landlord issues
3. Cost of pet maintenance
4. No time for pet
5. Inadequate facilities
6. Too many pets in home
7. Pet illness
8. Personal problems
10. No homes for littermates
It’s safe to assume most people love their pets and want to keep them. Giving up a pet is a difficult, emotional decision – one that is not as black and white as some rescue groups would like us to think.
Examples of shelters promoting holiday adoptions
The Nevada Humane Society is offering reduced adoption fees from now through Jan. 1 as part of a national event called Home 4 the Holidays, according to a press release. Adult cats are free, and dogs are just $50.
Thousands of shelters are participating in Home 4 the Holidays nationwide, according to the press release. The event was created to get dogs and cats out of shelters and into loving homes during the season of giving.
“More families bring pets into their homes during the holidays than any other time of year,” according to the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s web site. The center organized the original event in 1999 .
“In the past, some shelters have actually gone so far as to discourage families from adopting pets during the holidays,” according to the center’s web site. “This did not stop families from getting new pets. It just took away the adoption option and forced them to support the pet store and puppy mill industry.”
Now I want to hear from you. Have you ever adopted a pet during the holiday season?
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Thursday 17th of December 2015
[…] with loved ones and thoughtful gestures more than I could ever imagine as a kid. For some, Christmas is the perfect time to adopt a dog. I thought it would be fun to be a secret Santa and surprise a dozen people who adopt a dog from […]
Monday 9th of December 2013
I think it's all about humans understanding it's a lifelong commitment to the dog, no matter what time of year you bring a dog to join your family, and ensuring enough thought goes into the decision and the right dog joins the right family :)
Big wags to all,
Your pal Snoopy :)
Monday 9th of December 2013
I agree that Christmas can be a good time to bring home a dog or puppy, and I agree that there shouldn't be blanket rules against it.
However, if I was looking to add a dog to my home, I would not specifically "try" to get a dog around Christmas. Why? Basic supply and demand. This is just my opinion, but I would imagine that:
If you are looking to adopt a surrendered or re-homed dog, especially a puppy, I'd imagine that the competition is greater during Christmas and holiday season when other people want the "Christmas puppy." Meanwhile, these dogs are often relinquished in the months that follow when people realize just how much work they are (especially the puppies!). Just like the gym is crowded in January with New Year's Resolution people and emptying out in February, more people will be searching & buying or adopting dogs during the holiday season, and more dogs of the age/type/temperament/breed you are looking for will be available in the months that follow.
On the other hand, if I was going to buy a puppy from a breeder, then I would only work with ethical breeders. Someone who is responsible about getting health test clearances (hips, eyes, other breed-specific genetic issues), not over-breeding, choosing a genetically-diverse matching pair and then sending puppies to the best potential home for that dog's likely energy & temperament is going to be at the mercy of one or two dog's heat cycles. It's hard to imagine that timing a litter to arrive a certain number of weeks before the holiday season, let alone trying to guarantee that you will get a dog in a certain litter, would be anyone's priority in this process. If a breeder specifically guaranteed people Christmas puppies, I would be suspicious of their methods.
Monday 9th of December 2013
I'd probably be a little skeptical of a breeder planning a Christmas litter as well. But maybe that's unfair. If there are any breeders reading this, I'd love to hear their opinion on that.
Monday 9th of December 2013
This is something I have totally changed my mind about. I still don't think a puppy should be a surprise to someone who had never wanted one or to a family with very young children who think of the puppy as just another toy. But nothing is more delightful to the right person as a puppy with a bow.
Sunday 8th of December 2013
This will be our first time bringing home a Christmas puppy (or puppies). I'm one of those people who felt that promoting puppies at Christmas time encouraged people to make a spur of the moment choice; but people are people and if they want to do something without preparation, they will.
So I think posts like this and your great Craigslist one are going to give people something to think about.
If someone wants a puppy as a gift and they're prepared for the opportunity (and they're an adult), then I think it's a great surprise. Sadly, that's not what I see.