Like everyone else on the planet I’ve experienced things that gave me hope for humanity and things that absolutely broke my heart. My time working at the animal shelter was no different. I saw people patiently get to know nervous dogs and slowly earn their trust before giving them a forever home. I remember a man asking which cat had been there the longest because he wanted to help out an animal that had been overlooked by others. I even saw a man who had accidentally hit a small dog with his car (the night before moving many states over) proceed to drive back across the country to adopt that dog when no one else claimed her. But I also saw animals that had been abused, neglected, and abandoned. One of the most frustrating things we saw on a regular basis was people returning animals for trivial reasons. Like the time someone surrendered a puppy because it wasn’t potty trained. (I guess they didn’t get the memo that it was their job to do that.) The memory that prompted this post today was the time a dog was returned because the person they had gifted the dog to didn’t want her.
When you adopt an animal it’s important to be realistic about what their needs are. They can be time consuming in the beginning, especially the young ones. People who haven’t had a pet of their own before can have a hard enough time gauging whether or not they’re willing and able to meet those needs. So, you can imagine how hard it would be for someone else to gauge that for them. Not to mention the financial aspect of it all. I’m sure this may seem like a non-issue if it’s a parent giving the pet to their children (with the full intention of actually taking care of it themselves) and maybe it is. I would encourage you not to assume that though. I’m sure there’s been plenty of cases of parents getting swept up in the *idea* of having a family pet, but were not fully prepared for the reality of it. This can be a safety issue for the child and the pet and if the child’s interest in the animal is only fleeting, then you can have a whole other can of worms on your hands. This is especially common for bunnies gifted for Easter.
Even if you’ve specifically discussed this topic with the person you’d like to gift the pet to, I would suggest perhaps using a gift certificate to a shelter or something along those lines. Even if you find a really sweet critter, different personalities compliment one another and just because you and that animal mesh well doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the case for the other person. All of that being said, I do believe there are exceptions to most rules in life. Please only consider it if the person has clearly expressed their desire to have said pet and their ability to take care of it and you know that person well enough to know what kind of temperament would be a good match for them. Also keep in mind that there may be certain restrictions on size, breeds, etc. that are allowed where that person lives.
Despite the efforts of staff and volunteers, the shelter is a stressful place for animals. They are confined, it’s often loud, and they are constantly exposed to people and other animals that they don’t know. It’s hard for them to be taken away from all that only to be brought back. Obviously they don’t understand. So while you may impulsively think that a furry companion would be a wonderful surprise for someone in your life (with nothing but good intentions), try to remember that, at best, the life of that person and that animal will be forever changed by that decision. At worst, the animal will be returned or abandoned and you will have wasted money and added additional stress and confusion to that vulnerable animal’s life. Don’t risk it. Don’t gift an animal unless you’re absolutely sure they’re finding their forever home.