DATCP: Santa doesn’t give pets and neither should you

Contact: Donna Gilson, 608-224-5130, [email protected]

Jim Dick, Communications Director, 608-224-5020, [email protected]

MADISON – A puppy is not a perfect present, and in fact, giving one for Christmas might end up being a perfect mess instead.

The same goes for kittens, ferrets, miniature pigs, exotic animals, and any other pet, cautions state humane veterinarian Dr. Yvonne Bellay.

“Getting a pet should be a choice, and a commitment – never a surprise,” she says. “And even if you know the recipient wants a dog or a cat or ferret, and maybe even wants this particular dog or cat or ferret, wait until later. Bringing an animal into a home during the chaos of the holidays is a bad way to start the relationship.”

Adding to the problem is the fact that the holidays are filled with all those cute movie animals that too often result in some species or breed getting to be a fad – and in animals that show up in shelters a few months down the road. And family members might think a dog or cat is just what their elderly or empty-nester parents need, especially during the holidays.

“Resist all those temptations, because you’re not doing either the person or the pet a favor,” Dr. Bellay says. “Talk it over first, and if that person really wants a pet, do the research and get the right pet – in January. Instead of the pet itself, give some supplies for Christmas, or even some reading material to help get ready for the pet’s arrival.”

She offers more advice when choosing a pet:

* Match the pet to the person. Consider lifestyle, space, and financial demands. Is a dog, a cat, a ferret, a good match? What breed of dog? Consider exercise needs, grooming, need for attention, and costs of feeding and veterinary care. Find resources for choosing pets on our website.

* Don’t buy from a breeder blindly. Insist on visiting the breeder’s facilities to see how the animals are cared for. If the facilities are bad, walk away. If you buy an animal just to get it out of those conditions, you’re rewarding bad behavior and setting more animals up for neglect and abuse. You can check our online database of licensed dog sellers if you’re buying from a larger breeder; anyone selling fewer than 25 dogs a year does not need a license.

* Exotic animals are rarely, if ever, a good pet choice. They have special nutrition and health needs that may be expensive to meet, and finding veterinary care may be difficult. Reptiles often carry salmonella, and pose a risk especially to children. Some cities prohibit ownership of exotic animals, and some may not be brought into Wisconsin – prairie dogs, for example, and some African rodent species – because of disease threats.

* Get a certificate of veterinary inspection, or CVI, if you’re bringing any animal into Wisconsin from a different state. The seller should provide the CVI, but if not, it is your responsibility to have the animal checked by a veterinarian and get the proper paperwork. If you are buy a dog from a licensed seller in-state, the seller must provide you with a CVI. Small in-state sellers who don’t need licenses do not have to provide CVIs.