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SPCA: “Pets Not Just For Christmas”

SPCA: “Pets Not Just For Christmas”

The Royal New Zealand SPCA says pets are for life and not just for Christmas.

Animal shelters are filling-up with the normal seasonal surge of newborn kittens, as well as with puppies and adult cats and dogs. Similarly, pet-shops at this time of year also tend to have a surplus of cuddly new arrivals.

The SPCA says that it wants to find loving homes for as many of its feline and canine guests as possible. However, the Society insists, owning a companion animal is a long term commitment and should not be entered into lightly.

“If you are thinking of buying a kitten as a Christmas present for someone else, you really do need to make sure that it’s truly wanted and that the person for whom you are buying the present, is able and willing to look after the new member of the household.

“Similarly, if you’re buying a pet for your own family, please remember that, once the novelty has worn off, children can easily lose interest in their holiday-time plaything. If this happens, you will still have the legal and moral responsibility for looking after the animal,” says the Royal New Zealand SPCA’s Acting Chief Executive, Jenny Prattley.

“It’s always very sad to see our shelters fill up again in the New Year with four-legged Christmas presents who are no longer wanted. It’s even more tragic to learn of abandoned, sick or malnourished animals, who may have been acquired without thought or planning at this time of year,” she adds.

Mrs Prattley says people need to pause and consider what is involved before purchasing a pet for themselves or for others. She says that, although a kitten may be inexpensive to purchase, it can cost around $500 per year to provide it with normal ongoing essentials such as food, vaccinations and worm treatment. In addition, there are one-off costs such as de-sexing.

“The vast majority of SPCA shelters only adopt-out cats which have already been neutered or which, alternatively, come with a de-sexing voucher, to be paid for by the purchaser. If you are giving an unsexed kitten as a Christmas present, you should make sure that the de-sexing voucher forms part of that present.

“Most of the considerations which apply to cats, also apply to dogs. But there are many additional factors to be taken into account. As a result, we recommend that people don’t buy dogs as presents for others but leave the task to those who will actually be providing the dog with a home, “says Mrs Prattley.

“Dogs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and breeds, with different needs, including the size of section required and the amount of time and money likely to be involved in looking after them. Some breeds, for example, require professional grooming twice a year. Then there are also breeds which tend to leave hair on the furniture, carpets and curtains, a characteristic which may not fit-in with some people’s notions of good housekeeping.

“In addition, energetic puppies have certain inbuilt habits such as digging up gardens and chewing slippers. They require house-training and possibly obedience classes. And, of course, the cutest little puppy can grow into a much larger, hungrier creature in a very short time.

“Dog-ownership also involves legal obligations. Not only do owners need to keep their dogs on properly fenced sections. They are also responsible for ensuring access to their front doors. If you cannot meet these requirements, then it might be wise to put off owning a dog until your circumstances change,” she says.

Jenny Prattley adds that the majority of New Zealand pet owners fully understand their responsibilities and live up to them.

“There are also many families and individuals who don’t currently have animals living with them but who are certainly capable of providing a caring environment for a kitten, puppy or adult dog or cat. And there’s certainly no shortage of animals in our shelters who would respond with love and devotion to those who provide them with homes.

“But we do ask people to look before they leap. We certainly don’t want an ever–growing number of living, feeling creatures treated like discarded Christmas decorations once the festive season is over,” she says.

Mrs Prattley’s sentiments are supported by national SPCA Sponsor PEDIGREE and WHISKAS, says Marketing Manager Iaan Buchanan.

"PEDIGREE and WHISKAS want to encourage adoption of thousands of unwanted cats, and dogs, including kittens and puppies, which are looked after in the SPCA shelters around the country. But we’re keen to ensure that people are properly informed over what this responsibility entails.

“To that end, anyone adopting a cat or dog from the SPCA receives a "Friends for Life" Starter Pack supplied by PEDIGREE and WHISKAS. The pack includes an information booklet on how best to take care of new pets as well an adoption certificate and sample food packet," says Mr Buchanan.

Jenny Prattley describes PEIDIGREE and WHISKAS as making a valuable contribution to responsible pet ownership through its Starter Packs.

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