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The Genius Way to Gift a Pet for the Holidays

This time of year, many parents are handed holiday wish lists from their kids—and puppies, kittens, ponies and other animals often make their way to the top of those lists. For some families, a hard “no” is fair! Pets are a big responsibility that may not be suitable to take on for a variety of reasons. But if you are in the market for a pet, the holidays just might be the perfect opportunity to make special memories by adding a new four-legged member to your family.

Helping to take care of pets teaches kids about responsibility—and letting them participate in the process of getting a pet can teach them another valuable lesson about animal welfare. One way to do this is to forgo the puppy-in-a-box-under-the-tree moment, and instead, create an IOU for the new family member—make a festive certificate and call it a “Puppy Promise” or a “Cat Commitment.” It will be almost as exciting, and means you can focus on finding the pet that best fits your family’s needs instead of rushing to meet a holiday-gift deadline. (Pet stores are notorious for December promotions that try to take advantage of the scramble to get a puppy around the holidays.)

Then, involve your kids in the process of thinking through what kinds of pet they should consider, who else they can consult for advice, and what steps the family might take next. You can start by visiting an animal shelter to meet with an adoption counselor, surveying neighbors and friends about their experiences, or even committing to a short-term foster pet. Not only will it be a meaningful and educational family bonding experience, you will be playing a huge role in rejecting pet store cruelty.

Whether your family ends up making the decision to adopt or rescue, work with a responsible breeder, or even foster cats or dogs in need, you’ll be spreading cheer to all the new animals in your life. Happy holidays!

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