Pets as gifts? Debate lingers over whether it’s OK to adopt over the holidays

WATCH: The Nova Scotia SPCA says adopting a pet as a Christmas gift is now perfectly OK

Animal welfare advocates have long warned against buying a pet during the holidays, but what about adopting one?

While some animal shelters are encouraging families to adopt this holiday season, dozens in Germany are reportedly instituting a Christmas ban.

According to The Independent in the U.K., shelters in Berlin and other German cities are putting new adoptions on hold until the new year to make sure the animals are going to families who are ready for the commitment.

READ MORE: Want a dog for Christmas? Take a trial run with new Humane Society program

The concern is that the animals could become another holiday impulse purchase, putting them at risk of neglect or being returned to a shelter.

WATCH: Adopting a shelter pet isn’t just a good deed — it’s a practical decision for you, too.​

Practical reasons to adopt a shelter animal
Practical reasons to adopt a shelter animal
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“The temporary stop is there so that animals do not end up under the Christmas tree, because animals simply are not presents,” Arvid Possekel, who is from an animal shelter in Hanover, told Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Here in Canada, the Ontario SPCA said it does not encourage giving a pet “as a surprise gift.” The standard adoption process still applies over the holidays in order to make the best match between pet and owner.

“The person who will be the pet’s primary caregiver should be aware and involved,” the organization said in a statement.

In Nova Scotia, however, the local SPCA has launched a campaign to encourage people to welcome a pet into their families over the holidays.

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3 Saint Bernards find forever home
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Heather Woodin, the provincial director of programs for the Nova Scotia SPCA, told Global News that recent data show people who adopt at Christmas tend to keep their pets.

“We don’t see an increase in the animals coming into our care if they were adopted over the holidays, so there is just nothing to support that belief that has been repeated over and over for many years,” she said.

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READ MORE: The dos and don’ts of adopting pets for Christmas

According to a 2013 article published in the journal Animals by researchers from the American SPCA, a growing body of published scientific literature shows that concerns over the welfare of cats and dogs adopted as gifts are “unfounded.”

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300 toys donated to dogs battling cancer in Calgary
300 toys donated to dogs battling cancer in Calgary

The ASPCA conducted a small survey in the U.S. that suggested cats and dogs received as gifts are not at a higher risk for abandonment, given there was no association between an animal being gifted and whether it was still living with the owner. The study also found no impact on the owner’s self-perceived attachment to the pet.

“Denying adopters who intend to give the animals as gifts may unnecessarily impede the overarching goal of increasing adoptions of pets from our nations’ shelter system,” the report said.

According to Humane Canada, 120,000 cats and dogs entered Canadian shelters in 2017. Six per cent of cats who were healthy or treatable were euthanized, compared with nine per cent of dogs.

READ MORE: Maritime animal shelters encourage holiday pet adoptions

In Winnipeg, the Humane Society has launched a new program that could help address some of the issues surrounding adoption over the holidays.

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The Dog Staycation program lets a family try out a large- or medium-sized dog for a weekend.

“There’s a commitment you make when you’re taking a pet home,” Javier Schwersensky of The Winnipeg Humane Society told 680 CJOB Tuesday. “Sometimes we can explain it to you, but you can’t always grasp the responsibility and the joy of having a pet in your home.”

“This is a perfect way you can test the waters.”

Are you ready to adopt a pet?

The Ontario SPCA, along with other animal welfare and shelter agencies, has resources online to assist those looking to adopting a cat or dog.

The agency says that those who want to adopt should consider the length of the commitment — which could be as long as 20 years for a cat — as well as the considerable costs associated with food, grooming, training and veterinary care. Animals also require daily affection, play and exercise.

WATCH: Animal shelters encourage holiday pet adoptions

Animal shelters encourage holiday pet adoptions
Animal shelters encourage holiday pet adoptions

 — With files from Shelley Steeves and Sam Thompson

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