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Why Animal Shelters Might NOT Want You to Adopt During the Holidays

| Published on December 19, 2014

It may seem strange to you; aren’t the holidays a perfect time to boost adoptions with campaigns like “a home for the holidays” and pictures of cute puppies with bows? Within that slogan lies the problem – adopting a dog is not just “a home for the holidays” it’s a home fur-ever and it’s a big responsibility.

According to an article in the Topeka Capital-Journal:

The Helping Hands Humane Society sees about a 5 percent bump in admissions after the holidays, but in past years it has taken back animals even a couple of months into the new year, said Margaret Price, director of animal welfare with HHHS.

Several rescues and shelters across the country report increases in admissions and abandonments after Christmas. Three pets were abandoned every hour between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27, 2010, according to figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a registered charity in England and Wales. (

Not all shelters see an increase after the holidays, however. The Pasadena Humane Society in Pasadena, California says they do not see a bump in in-takes after the New Year.

“Personally, I see a surge at my shelter and rescues that I volunteer with of one to two year old puppies,” says Stephanie Krol, president of the Humane Society of Elkhart County in Indiana and a publicist in the pet industry. “This tells me that they were an impulse purchase and the owner didn’t have time to invest in a dog trainer.”

Pros to Holiday Adoption

Many would argue that the holidays are a perfect time to get a dog because everyone is off work and the kids are home from school so the dog can bond with them. But the holidays also have stress and lots of activity.

“For a successful adoption experience for both you and your new pet, be sure to make your pet’s comfort and security a high priority,” says Ricky Whitman, Vice President of Community Outreach for the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA. “When adopting a pet during the holidays, it’s important to remember that your new pet is adjusting and stressed by the changes. Take special care to keep your new pet in a quiet safe place if you are having lots of guests, a party or unusual activity.”

Of course, not all families have huge get togethers and parties. My husband and I have spent many quiet Christmases with just the two of us.

“Dogs and cats need consistency and an adjustment period,” Says Krol. “Holidays are usually a hectic time.  However, if you have time to devote to adjusting a pet to your home and time to find a dog trainer then the holidays may work for you.”

So if you are having a quiet Christmas and you have been waiting to get a dog, this may be a good time for you.

Cons to Holiday Adoption

Hinted about above, there are a lot of cons to adopting at Christmas. Krol notes that aside from the stress of so many new people, a new environment, and hectic schedules, you also have a lot of decorations, presents, and food around that can be harmful to your new best friend.

All this can add up to making bringing a dog into your home even more stressful, with the end result being a trip back to the shelter. You want to bring a dog home in the best possible environment, to set yourself up for success. The holidays might not be that time.

And while these are things to consider (both the pro and the con) they are not the main reasons why Shelters discourage adoptions during this time of year.

An Unwelcome Gift

The main reason shelters discourage adoption during the holidays is because of gifts. Many people think giving a pet as a gift is the best present in the world.

It is hard to resist a face like this, but giving him a home just to dump him again is even worse. Image source: @SpotUs via Flickr
It is hard to resist a face like this, but giving him a home just to dump him again is even worse. Image source: @SpotUs via Flickr

But if we are honest with ourselves, we know it’s not. It would be like adopting a kid for someone else. The only time adopting a pet as a gift would be okay is if you are the parents and you have decided to surprise your kids.

And before you say “I know they have the money, and the time, and I have heard them talking about wanting a dog…” Realize choosing a dog is about more than just logistics.

“The bond between an animal and a person is a personal one,” says Whitman. “Choosing your own pet helps develop that bond from the start.”

“Pets are a lifelong commitment,” Krol adds. “You should have input on your new family member and if that pet is a fit for your lifestyle.”


The Pasadena Humane Society has a great alternative for those wanting to get a dog for a family during the holidays.

“When someone comes to PHS wanting to adopt a pet for someone else, we ask that they give a gift certificate for the adoption so they can choose their own pet,” explains Whitman.

This way, the family can chose which dog and when to adopt. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Or, if you think the family wants a dog but you don’t really know for sure, Krol has some other ideas that make great gifts.

“A great gift idea is donating to an animal shelter or rescue in someone’s name, she says. “You can sponsor a specific pet and educate the potential new owner. Most shelters and rescues need money, pet food, cleaning supplies, pet toys and enrichment items so please add this to your shopping list!”

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.


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