What to know before gifting a pet for Christmas

The Sumter Humane Society is emptier now than usual, but that'll change soon. / Mary Green

The Sumter Humane Society is emptier now than usual, but that'll change soon.

“Shelters fill up this time of year," Director Ruth Olson said. "A lot of the time it is, I got this puppy. It was five pounds, and now it’s an 80-pound Charlie. It's too big. Or it's jumping, and it's knocking me down. Or it's chewing — that's what animals do."

It's why Olson and Dr. Carie Wisell of Companion Animal Hospital both say that giving or getting a pet as a Christmas gift is such a big decision, because they don't want those animals to end up in a shelter if the home isn't a good fit.

The first thing you should do is make sure you can even have a pet.

“Check with your landlord," Dr. Wisell said. "They get it, and they’re all happy, and then, guess what. The landlords are like, no.”

Then do your research, since animals aren't one size fits all. What should you look up?

“Definitely personalities, sizes, hair coat. Are they going to need grooming? How much care do they take once they’re adults?” Dr. Wisell said.

While they're almost irresistibly cute, puppies and kittens need lots of attention.

“You can’t just go to work at 8 o’clock in the morning and come back at 5 o’clock at night and expect that baby to be OK," Olson said. "You have to be prepared for potty training, and to make sure it does get fed.”

So a more low-key pet might be right for your home.

“Don’t forget the adult dogs and the adult cats," Olson said. "They’re the hardest ones to find homes for, and sometimes, they’re the easiest to just move right into your house.”

Before you commit to a pet, know that you're also committing to a lifetime of bills, even if you received the pet for free.

“There will be money involved at some point in the care of this animal, to make sure that they’re vaccinated, spayed and neutered, which we hope you get," Dr. Wisell said.

It might even cost you if you decide you can't keep the pet. The Sumter Humane Society and other local animal shelters charge a fee to relinquish animals.

“It’s very heartbreaking when we see somebody pull up and get their dog out of the car, we’re just like, ‘Oh, no, not another one,’" Olson said. "And if people had thought this whole process through before they took that cute, little guy home, that wouldn’t have happened.”

If you do decide to get a dog, Olson recommends taking a training class, no matter how old they are.

If you decide to get an exotic animal, whether that's a snake, other reptile, rabbit or even a potbelly pig, Dr. Wisell said to first make sure there's a vet in your area who can treat it.

Both she and Olson also strongly advised spaying and neutering your cats and dogs.

Because of this Companion Animal Hospital is currently offering its "Christmas Wish" spaying and neutering discount.

Through Jan. 31, they're offering spays and neuters for cats and dogs under 65 pounds. The prices are $50 for cat neuters, $60 for cat spays, $85 for dog neuters and 20 percent off for dog spays. Prices also include a three-year rabies vaccine.

Call 229-888-7181 to schedule an appointment at their office, located at 810 N. Slappey Blvd. in Albany.

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