Should Santa bring a pet for Christmas? It depends

This time of year, the number of inquiries about pet adoptions starts to pick up at PAWS Atlanta, an animal welfare nonprofit and no-kill shelter in Decatur.

Thinking about a pet as a gift for Christmas?

Good or bad idea?

It depends, experts say.

Is it a surprise or is the person getting the cat or dog aware that soon there will be the pitter patter of little paws (or perhaps big ones) in the house?

Advocates want to find loving, forever homes for pets. All it takes is a little education and planning.

“We don’t think giving pets as gifts is ever a good idea,” said PAWS Atlanta Executive Director Nancy Longacre. “We want every pet to feel like and be treated like a member of the family. So, in order to make that happen, everybody in the family needs to meet that pet and make sure it’s the right fit for everyone who is living in the home. Once that happens, then the likelihood that it’s going to be a successful adoption or placement is really, really high.”

During the holiday period, several groups are holding pet adoption events.

For instance, Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue and Adoptions is joining forces with national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society and other animal rescue groups and shelters to find permanent homes for pets.

With the adoption campaign, which runs through Dec. 31, select animals may be adopted for a $25 fee. Adoptable animals will be available for viewing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday at the Barrett Parkway PetSmart in Kennesaw, and two Sundays a month at Pet Supermarket at Ansley Mall.

So, what to do?

Longacre, for instance, suggests buying a collar, leash, pet toys and perhaps a feeding bowl, wrap them and place them in a gift box, then go as a family to select your pet. “That way, they still get the surprise of ‘Wow.’”

Pets have personalities, just like humans, so you want to make sure everyone gets along.

You may not want a high-energy Jack Russell terrier, for example, in a home of senior citizens or very young children.

“Having a pet is a lifelong commitment,” said Karen Hirsch, public relations director for the LifeLine Animal Project, “and the person receiving the pet has to be actively involved in the decision to take on this kind of commitment. They’re going to be caring for it medically, its needs for exercise, food and attention.”

Timing may also be a factor. If you plan to have a house full of company during the hectic holiday period, then perhaps you might want to postpone bringing a new pet into the family.

You’ll want to give the pet time to acclimate to a new family and new surroundings. You don’t want them to be stressed.

You also want to protect the pet. Not everyone is a pet person. You don’t want a guest to roughly handle your new addition or feed him something that can be harmful.

The staffs at PAWS Atlanta and LifeLine Animal Project can help you find just the right pet.

In the end, “you don’t want the person to return the pet,” Hirsch said.

Check out these adoptable friends from PAWS Atlanta.

Some of the organizations to contact:

PAWS Atlanta

5287 Covington Highway, Decatur. 770-593-1155,

LifeLine Animal Project

404-292-8800 (appointments only for dogs),

Cat Adoption Center, 3172 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Scottdale.

Atlanta Humane Society (Howell Mill Campus)

981 Howell Mill Road N.W., Atlanta. 404-875-5331,

Atlanta Pet Rescue & Adoption

4874 S. Atlanta Road S.E., Atlanta. 404-815-6680,

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