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Should you give a pet as a Christmas gift?

December is the busiest month for staffers at PAWS Atlanta, an animal welfare nonprofit and no-kill shelter in Decatur.

Parents think it’s a great idea to give a puppy or cat for Christmas.

Perhaps not.

“We don’t think giving a pet as a gift is a good idea, but it’s just so prevalent during the gift-giving season,” said PAWS Atlanta Executive Director Nancy Longacre. “

Is it a surprise or is the person getting the cat or dog aware that soon there will a little furry creature in the house? Will the house be full of people for the holidays? Will you have a live decorated Christmas tree, gifts or food in the house that could make a pet ill?

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

“A lot of parents think about getting their child a pup or kitten or adult children think about getting a pet for their parent,” said PAWS Atlanta Executive Director Nancy Longacre.

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 are a lifetime commitment and we always recommend that people think about adoption and talk to our adoptions counselors about what their lifestyle is and how this pet will fit into that lifestyle,” said Christina Hill, director of marketing and communications for the Atlanta Humane Society.”

Perhaps your widowed mother doesn’t want the responsibility or expense associated with a pet. Is she physically able to walk a dog a couple of times a day?

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.

“It may be a good idea, we just want to make sure that everybody is in agreement,” adds Longacre. “It has to work for everybody.”

Some of the organizations to contact:

PAWS Atlanta

5287 Covington Highway, Decatur. 770-593-1155, www.pawsatlanta.org.

Best Friends Atlanta 

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

Atlanta Humane Society 

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

1565 Mansell Rd. Alpharetta

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