Pets As Gifts Require Thought

ST. MARYS — What gift could be better, than the gift of loyalty, friendship and lifelong companionship? If you’re thinking of surprising a loved one with a pet, the answer might be “anything else.”

“A pet for a gift is not a good idea for an unsuspecting family member,” said Miranda Oden, manager at Auglaize County Humane Society in Wapakoneta. “It’s a responsibility, a commitment.”

The shelter has a policy that no animal can be adopted as a gift as a way to avoid the inevitable animal returns that follow. Possible reasons animals are returned can be that the person lives in a rental, has to move, doesn’t have time for a pet, or is expecting a baby.

Oden said gifts can also become a problem when one member of a couple decides to adopt an animal to give to the other. Of the adoptions in December, only three are being given as Christmas gifts, and in those cases the couples had already discussed pet ownership with the future owners.

On the other hand, the economy has hit pet owners hard. Many animals shelters are receiving are from people who have foreclosed on their house and now live in no-pet rentals or with family members who will accept the owners but not their pets.

The Auglaize County facility is puppy central the last few weeks after a recent hoarding bust led to the shelter housing two pregnant female dogs giving birth to a large number of pups. Oden isn’t worried about the puppies, however. Puppies are easy to adopt, although the shelter’s supply of puppy food is a little low.

Cats, on the other hand, are often hard to place. Even specialty cats, like a neutered Himalayan the shelter recently received, are hard to adopt. Specials, like this month’s $35 cat adoption, can help but it doesn’t keep up with the need.

“If I took all the cats people called about, that’s all we’d have,” Oden said. “I take about three calls per day.”

If anyone knows about finding homes for cats, it’s Sue Zink, who is sheltering 348 cats at Sue’s Animal Rescue Team in St. Marys. Zink has rescued about 1,000 cats to date, and has her eye on about 500 more currently on the streets that need sterilization and medication. She can’t take in those other cats, however, because she’s already about 100 cats over her ideal number.

“Right now, we only take emergencies, babies and injured animals,” she said, adding that she’s suggested neighborhoods start addressing problems themselves by pitching in money to sterilize their local cats, and to check foreclosed homes for cats.

One problem in the last few years is that people who leave a foreclosed home will leave their cats in the home. While people often believe a cat’s natural instincts will help it survive, sometimes those cats die. Other cats Zink saved have come from sealed boxes on the side of the road or in paper bags tossed from vehicles.

She said she won’t adopt a cat to anyone as a Christmas gift for someone else, because it doesn’t foster a good relationship.

“To have an animal show up on Christmas morning with all those people is a horrible way to start,” she said. “And people are very picky, selective, about what cats they like. We’re the cat’s advocates in this situation.”

She said the individual personalities of cats means each person needs to pick out their own to ensure the cat gets along with that person.

She thinks that adopting kittens is a problem because when the cat hits maturity, people get annoyed by the cat’s behaviors. Also, she said, as popular as kittens are for adoption, it’s a bad idea to adopt them at a very young age because many times they die unexpectedly.

She’s adopted cats to people who come from as far as Maine to pick up a particular animal. One cat went with a couple back to Switzerland. She said she tends to adopt out two to four cats per weekend.

Besides cats, older dogs have trouble being adopted no matter how well behaved or lovable they are. Zero, for example, is an active older dog, but many people pass her over because she’s 11, and they’re afraid they’ll only have a few years with her before she dies.

Oden said that’s a shame because Zero spent her entire life in a home before coming to the shelter, so shelter life is harder on her.

“These animals are all over fed, over treated,” Oden said. “That’s still not being in a home with a family, though.”

The ASPCA estimated in 2010 that between 5 to 7 million pets are abandoned each year, abandonment that leads to overpopulation.