Updated: Feb 15
The topic of gifting pets has always been controversial in the field of animal rescue.
Some animal rescues outright refuse to allow adopters to adopt an animal with the intention of gifting that animal to someone else.
These animal rescues believe that the likelihood of a failed adoption is higher in instances where the adopter's intention is to gift the pet to someone else.
We've seen their initial assumption be proven true over and over again.
WBTV also reported that “just one week after December 25, there have been six animals that were Christmas gifts, returned to Sims’ Human Society" located in Concord North Carolina.
It wasn't even halfway through January when CBC News reported that “An Ottawa (rescue) group that rescues abandoned dogs (said) it (was) already seeing a surge in surrendered pets given as Christmas gifts.”
The ASPCA released a video clip promoting pets being adopted out to be gifted.
However, a pet was considered as ‘retained’ after successfully remaining in their new ‘home’ for only 24 hours.
That’s a pretty low bar for measuring the success of an adoption.
Some animal rescues still argue that adopters should be allowed to adopt pets for the purpose of gifting them to someone else, even though the data collection methods used in this study turned out to be flawed.
These animal rescues believe it would be unfair to keep these animals in shelter on an assumption that lacks 'statistical data' proving the assumption to be correct. They believe this simply creates an unnecessary barrier to adoption.
However in the absence of data, it's okay to rely on logical inferences.
In a field where any accurate statistical data is absent, real-life scenarios should form the basis of case studies. These case studies themselves are 'evidence.'
One can also rationalize the issue using basic inferences, as we're about to do.
Here's why your animal rescue should not allow animals to be adopted by adopters who intend to give the animals away as gifts.
There are some basic inferences you can reach simply by analyzing the adoption process.
In most instances, the adopter would normally be the animal's main caregiver moving forward. That means that in most instances an adoption interview involves the animal's caregiver and a member of your adoption staff.
However, in this instance, the animal's life long caregiver is not there.
1. Your adoption team can't screen caregivers who are not there!
The two main purposes of an adoption interview are to screen and educate the animal's prospective caregiver.
How can your animal rescue screen prospective caregivers that are not there? The answer is you can't. You also can't screen any other members of their household either!
Isn't screening the animal's next family a major part of what adoption teams do?
How will your adoption team observe how other members of the household interact with the pet?
The requirement that an adoption counsellor interview the animal's prospective caregiver is a requirement built into the adoption process, why would an animal rescue suddenly abandon that process?
Animal rescues have an obligation to screen and educate each animal's caregiver directly. These are basic measures that every animal rescue should have in place to keep animals safe.
2. Your adoption team can't educate caregivers who aren't there.
If the animal's caregiver is not present during the adoption interview then how can an adoption counsellor know if the care giver's home is safe enough for an animal to reside in?
How will the adoption counsellor know if the caregiver will receive the correct animal care instructions from the adopter?
The animal's caregiver will need to be educated on how to care for the animal.
If the caregiver is not present during the adoption interview then the person who was present will likely be the one to educate them.
Having a third party educate the animal's caregiver as opposed to an adoption counsellor gives your animal rescue or animal shelter little to no control over the information the animal's caregiver receives.
You know how much training your adoption team received to be able to educate prospective adopters.
Why would you suddenly think that a member of the general public would be able to accurately relay that same information or answer any questions the caregiver might have.
If the animal's caregiver receives any incorrect information from that adopter then it will affect the animal's quality of care moving forward.
3. Caregivers who are not educated are more likely to struggle to care for their pets on an ongoing basis.
There are many instances where animals in homes are not well cared for simply because their caregivers don't have access to the education they need to properly care for them.
It's your animal rescue's job to make sure any animals in your care go home with caregivers who are educated on how to care for them.
If an animal has complex medical or behavioural concerns then your adoption team needs to educate the animal's caregiver directly.
Think about how detailed your animal rescue's medical and behavioural disclosures are.
These disclosures go over information like:
what medical or behavioural conditions the animals may have
the name and contact information of the veterinarian who diagnosed the condition
the symptoms of each medical or behavioural condition
what treatment the animal may have received for the condition thus far
what treatment the animal may need to receive for the condition in the future
Can you really trust a third party to accurately relay that type of information to the animal's caregiver?
Do you trust that person to be educated enough to answer any questions that the animal's caregiver might have?
It will increase the likelihood of a failed adoption if the animal's caregiver does not receive the information needed to care for the animal-based on their medical or behavioural concerns.
The last thing your animal rescue wants is to suffer a failed adoption. Failed adoptions have the power to cost your animal rescue both time and money.
After all, every failed adoption results in an increase your animal rescue's intake department's workload. Failed adoptions also result in your animal rescue having to finance an animal's care for a longer duration of time.
You can avoid all of this simply by screening and educating the animal's caregiver directly.
4. Failed adoptions are stressful for companion animals.
In the instance of gifted pets there are some facts we know right away:
The animal shelter or animal rescue could not interview, meet or screen the animal's prospective caregiver
The animal shelter or animal rescue could not educate the animal's prospective caregiver on how to care for the animal
The animal shelter or animal rescue could not educate the animal's prospective caregiver on the animal's medical or behavioural concerns
When animal rescues allow adopters to adopt pets whom they intend to gift to third parties, the animal rescues are really doing little to nothing to set these animals up for success long term.
The animal rescue has especially failed to take the steps necessary to prevent failed adoptions from happening.
Animals in shelters experience an increase in stress.
That stress can be avoided if your animal rescue simply takes the steps necessary to properly screen and educate the animal's caregiver directly.
Animals in animal shelters are more likely to fall ill after coming into contact with an infection or disease.
Animals in shelters may even be at risk of euthanasia if the shelter is a kill shelter.
5. Your animal shelter or animal rescue must raise valid concerns to adopters looking to gift pets.
Whenever your animal rescue refuses to allow an adopter to adopt a pet whom they intend to gift, you'll need to educate them on the reasons why.
If not, you may run the risk of the adopter simply going to a breeder. After all, when do breeders ever really say no?
Your animal rescue must provide these prospective adopters with the education needed to prevent these people from hanging up the phone on your animal rescue and calling a breeder.
Below you'll find a list of additional information to help your adoption team deter these adopters from purchasing a pet somewhere else to gift the animal.
6. Gifting a pet means gifting a family another monthly expense.
An animal will cost the family additional money every month. Animals need to eat. In most instances, they also need toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, toys etc.
Have your adoption team ask the person intending to gift the animal how they would feel if someone gave them a $100 a month expense as a Christmas or Easter gift.
How would the adopter feel if their family member or friend randomly incurred an unexpected $10,000 veterinary expense shortly after receiving a puppy as a gift?
Probably not great.
7. Gifting a pet is a major financial imposition.
Veterinary care is definitely not inexpensive.
These expenses are one of the many reasons why families need to sit down and have serious conversations about pets before adopting – not just suddenly receive a pet as a gift.
Your adoption team needs to put the cost of veterinary care into perspective for the person intending to gift a pet.
This will help with deterrence - especially if you use real-life examples.
8. Animals will drastically alter the family's daily routine.
As animal rescue professionals, we all know there’s a daily time commitment that goes into pet ownership but the person trying to gift a pet may not.
Putting into perspective the amount of time their family member or friend will have to invest to care for the animal is another great way to deter someone from gifting a pet.
Dogs will need to be walked. Some animals will need to be brushed. Litter boxes may need to be cleaned. Cages or enclosures may also need to be cleaned.
The person receiving the gift could easily see an hour of their day disappear with little to no notice on how drastically their day to day routine is about to change.
9. Puppies will quickly grow to be big dogs.
Someone who wants to gift a puppy may not be thinking about how big that dog will be 6 months from now.
Without having ever seen anyone handle a 60-100lb dog before, how can they be certain their family member or friend will be able to do it?
Depending on the person’s living situation, large dogs can make it more difficult for them to maintain their living situation.
Their landlord or home insurance policy may have stipulations against certain breeds of animals. Prospective landlords may choose to pass on their tenancy applications.
This should be enough to make any reasonable person rethink gifting a puppy.
10. An animal is not an easy gift to return.
Last, but not least, ask the person intending to gift the pet to put themselves in the shoes of the person who will receive their wonderful ‘gift.’
If they decide this ‘gift’ is too time-consuming, too expensive to maintain or even worse – putting their living situation at risk than what will their options be?
Imagine having to take an animal you’ve grown a little fond of back to an animal shelter or rescue.
It’s probably a very emotional experience.
It's also an experience that causes a lot of people to feel shame or guilt.
We're sure nobody wants to give anyone the emotional burden of guilt for Easter or Christmas.
If you’re looking for additional reasons to help your adoption team deter prospective adopters looking to adopt pets to give the pet away as a gift, you can find some here.
We've got more tips to help you keep more companion animals safe.
Keeping animals safe is a matter of policy. Your animal shelter or animal rescue’s senior management must take the steps necessary to address the issue of ‘gifted pets’ and that can only be done by creating a responsible adoption policy.
If your animal shelter or animal rescue needs help to create a responsible adoption policy - then you should consider taking our life-saving e-course, “The Power of Adoption.”
The Power of Adoption will teach you everything you need to know to design a safe adoption policy.
You will be taught how to:
Design policies based on our professional research
Design training programs that will help your adoption counsellors keep animals safe
Properly screen prospective adopters
Educate prospective adopters to turn them into the type of pet owners you'd be proud to send your furry friends home with.
The best part is that you'll learn how to achieve all of this - without creating any unnecessary barriers to adoption.
With so many animals being killed each year - the least we can do is educate ourselves on how to save more animals! #Letssaveanimals