Cute and cuddly, but a lifetime commitment

Are you buying a pet this Christmas? Log onto to have your say.
Are you buying a pet this Christmas? Log onto to have your say.

Thinking of adopting a new pet this holiday season? Then be prepared to do some homework first, ConnectPink’s Michelle O’Rielly reports.

“Pets can greatly enrich our lives but please think carefully before deciding whether to add to your family this Christmas,” urges Jen Salter from RSPCA South Australia. The media and campaigns manager firmly believes pets should never be given as presents and her advice comes after 9000 animals were placed in the state’s three shelters in 2011 and 2012. That’s on top of RSPCA SA investigating 2496 reports of cruelty and performing 1560 rescues.

Jen said a pet was a lifetime commitment and the decision to adopt should never be impulsive. “Some animals can live for 20 years or more so it’s a big decision and should never be made on behalf of someone else. If people are determined to buy a pet as a gift this Christmas we urge them to purchase gift vouchers so the recipient can select a pet that is right for them,” she said.

While the RSPCA is inundated with animals all times of the year, numbers do swell during summer, Jen said. Dog numbers remain steady during this period but the warmer weather heralds the arrival of the kitten season. “During this time we can have more than 360 cats and kittens at the Lonsdale shelter alone at any one time.”

A step in the right direction is to seek advice from RSPCA’s adoption staff. “These people work with the animals on a daily basis and understand their unique personalities and specific requirements. They are skilled at matching people with their ‘perfect’ pet.”

Jen said often people's research was based on an animal's breed or appearance. “However after speaking with our staff and spending time with the animals they may find their perfect match is not what they initially expected,” Jen said.

There are also the ongoing expenses of owning a pet that can often be underestimated. “Our staff always advise new owners about the financial realities of owning a pet, such as yearly vaccinations, flea and worm treatments, toys, unexpected veterinary consultations or treatment and of course food.”

People may also underestimate the amount of time and care a pet will require. “They will need to spend time with their animal; particularly dogs and long haired animals will also need regular grooming.” To assist, RSPCA suggest new owners will benefit from personal consultations with staff or dog behaviourists who make them aware of the training, exercise, medical and dietary requirements of the animal they take home. RSPCA say a responsible animal owner is someone who understands their pet’s needs, ensure their pets are micro chipped, desexed, vaccinated and wormed. They also ensure they can pay registration fees and are able to keep their animal healthy, happy and safe.

Potential animal owners should also ask themselves:

- Am I prepared to care for a pet for its entire life?

- Can I afford to properly care for a pet and any veterinary attention it may require?

- Do I live in suitable accommodation with adequate space for a pet?

- If I move will I be able to take a pet with me?

- Will a pet fit into my lifestyle and priorities?

- If I go on holidays can I arrange appropriate pet care?

- Will the animals get along with other pets in my household?

For those people who have done their homework and are serious about pet adoption then the next stage is to get in touch with your local RSPCA. Jen explained people will need to spend at least half an hour with an animal to better understand its personality. This can be an important bonding experience. “To reduce impulse purchases we also ask owners to bring in current dogs they have for a ‘meet and greet’ on neutral territory.”

Jen highlighted that the beauty of being associated with the RSPCA was the adoption process did not end when the animal is taken home. “New owners can call us for advice about their new pet days, weeks and months after they have adopted.”

And for animal lovers who can’t keep pets due to their residence, allergies, travel commitments or any other reasons there are ways to show you care.

The association encourages people to become involved in their annual events such as Million Paws Walk and Cupcake Day.  “These events are fun, social, and raise vital funds for the work we do for thousands of South Australian animals each year," Jen said. "Those who are unable to attend events can become an RSPCA member or donate to our appeals throughout the year.”

Jen pointed out that about 10 per cent of the RSPCA’s funding came from the state government, so the organisation relies heavily on the generosity of the community. Plus, with Christmas nearing, current animal owners wishing to spoil their petare encouraged to checkout a range of gift items from RSPCAs online shop

It was 1871 when the Royal Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was formed to fight relentlessly against animal cruelty and since then here have been positive changes in the legislation governing animal welfare.

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