Western Arizona Humane Society pushes ‘fostering’ before adoption
The holidays are coming, and families throughout the U.S. have the same idea every year: To give the gift of a pet for Christmas. Parents anticipate the joy in their child’s eyes, the love and affection of a new best friend, waiting for them beneath the Christmas tree. It’s a Christmas surprise that can succeed – or fail – spectacularly.
According to Western Arizona Humane Society Executive Director Patty Gillmore, adoptions rise in Lake Havasu City during the holiday season. For many cats and dogs, however, it’s a brief respite from the shelter kennels before they are ultimately returned.
“Adoptions go up during the holidays,” Gillmore said. “People want to surprise their families with a dog or cat on Christmas, and then they bring it back a few weeks later. We want people to take adoptions seriously – an animal should be a part of their family for life, not part-time.”
It takes a minimum of six weeks for an adopted pet to become comfortable in a new home, according to Gillmore. The transition is a stressful time for animals – stress that could lead to shedding, hyperactivity, nervousness or tension toward other household animals or family members. In recent years, some of Havasu’s new pet owners have given their new adopted animals mere days to adjust to their new homes.
“A puppy is cute under the Christmas tree,” Gillmore said. “I wish we could adopt out more senior dogs. Now we have a lot of people coming in, they’re so excited and they want to do an adoption. We recommend fostering the animals first.”
Fostering an animal requires no up-front payment, according to Gillmore. Families can bring pets home to observe how a new dog or cat will interact with other pets, with children or other household members before adopting the animal permanently.
“We want to match animals with families and families with animals,” Gillmore said. “We’re trying to push fostering for the holidays – families can bring the animal back, but they have to have a good reason. It’s stressful for the animal, going to a new home.”
According to Gillmore, adopting a pet is an emotional experience not just for owners, but for the animals themselves. “You have to be a responsible pet owner,” Gillmore said. “You have to feed them, exercise them, keep them clean and vaccinate them. Some people don’t think it through. We don’t want people to buy an animal, but to adopt them.”
According to Humane Society staff, the animal shelter’s kennels are full this holiday season, and for as many animals are adopted to Havasu families, more are being received at the organization’s intake facility.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, new pets are not an appropriate holiday gift for children aged three or younger. For children 3-5, guinea pigs are preferable, because they will seldom bite and they enjoy being held. Children ages 5-10 are better prepared for smaller pets such as rats, mice or fish. The organization says children ages 10-13 are ready for the responsibility of owning a dog, cat or rabbit.
Pet information and adoption website Petfinder.com recommends that prospective new owners take costs into consideration when adopting. Beyond the initial adoption fee, caring for a cat costs a minimum of about $350 per year, while caring for a small or medium-sized dog can cost a minimum of $400 per year. The website also advises that a lifetime commitment to pet ownership also will include costs for veterinarian visits and pet supplies in addition to time and attention.
An alternative to bringing home a new pet, however, is for parents to purchase a gift certificate from Western Arizona Humane Society or other animal shelters. Rather than receiving a surprise-puppy or kitten under the tree for Christmas, recipients can venture to their local animal shelter to choose their own new addition to the family.
For more information, contact the Western Arizona Humane Society at 928-855-5083, or visit the society’s webpage at westernarizonahumane.org.