2020 has already been a record year for pet adoptions and purchases. Working from home, remote learning and stay-at-home orders combined to create a phenomenon many animal care professionals have dubbed the 2020 “puppy boom.”
With Christmas right around the corner, many parents might be considering a Christmas puppy as a last minute surprise for the kids. As the pandemic drags on, however, many new pet owners are admitting to having bought their pets impulsively, having put little to no research into their decisions. While the desire to cap off a ghastly year with a stellar Christmas is certainly understandable, the experiences of these humbled pet parents should make even the most enthusiastic of Santa’s helpers think twice.
In fairness, many prospective pet parents do their homework, prep their families and do honest lifestyle assessments before bringing home pets for the holidays. But last minute Christmas puppy shoppers often don’t have time for due diligence. Here are some things to bear in mind before giving in to a holiday impulse purchase.
For starters, many children are simply not ready for the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet. This can mean any type of pet, including the pocket pets which are packaged with starter habitats, and aggressively hustled by pet retailers during the holidays.The novelty wears off quickly, and when it does, the work of caring for the new pet falls squarely on mom and dad. It’s not fun for anyone, including the new pets - who seem to have a way of knowing when they aren’t wanted.
Second, remember the world is changing by the minute. Vaccines are going into arms. By this time next year, kids will be back in school full-time, adults will be working from offices, and current deprivations like travel and parties will be back on the menu. If you’re thinking of adding a pet to your life, get one that works for the life you will have in a year, NOT the life you have now.
Finally, the demand for pets - especially puppies - is at an all time high. Unless you planned ahead and secured a puppy from a reputable source months ago, you’re likely to only find they are only available in pets stores. Folks, I cannot stress this enough - nearly ALL of the cases of communicable diseases, inherited disorders, behavioral problems and general unthriftiness we vets see in practice occur in puppies who were purchased from pet stores. We are all painfully aware of the tricks sellers and brokers use to convince the public their charges do not come from puppy mills. Don’t believe the spin. Many of these purveyors are deliberately kept in the dark as to the origins of their puppies.
Reputable, conscientious breeders of healthy, purpose bred dogs have long waiting lists for their pups - especially now. These people DO NOT sell to pet stores. They don’t have to, and if they want to remain reputable, they don’t dare. If you are interested in buying a purebred puppy, please do not support the puppy mill business model.
If you’ve done your due diligence and decided you can handle a Christmas puppy, consider adopting one from one of our local shelters or rescue organizations. Better yet, wait until after New Year’s. A pet’s love lasts their entire lives. There’s no need to follow a scripted timeline.
Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.