SPCA warns against pets as Christmas gift

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2012
Kittens at the SPCA in Invercargill
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
THINK TWICE: Southland SPCA administrator Melissa Gibson shows off two of the kittens available for adoption, but staff are warning people not to give pets as Christmas presents.
Kittens at the SPCA in Invercargill
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
These puppies need a home.

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More unwanted Christmas kittens could be ending up in shelters thanks to online auction sites, SPCA staff claim.

Southland SPCA manager Mary Bradley said while post-Christmas pet dumping had always been a problem, she believed the internet had exacerbated the trend in recent years.

"Trade Me and that, that's the big problem we have."

Increasingly, kittens and puppies were listed on auction sites and people would click "buy" without much thought into how they would be cared for.

"Then two months down the track, the novelty's worn off.

"People need to think if they're going to buy somebody a pet for Christmas, that that's what the person actually wants."

SPCA staff actively discouraged people from buying animals, especially dogs, as Christmas gifts, whether online or from more traditional outlets, she said.

"Dogs mostly are a bigger concern than kittens.

"Dogs are definitely a no-no unless we meet the person they're buying the dog for."

As well as questioning whether the recipient was prepared to invest in dog-proofing, a kennel, and the time to exercise their new pet, there was also no guarantee they would bond with the particular dog chosen.

Staff started to see a spike of unwanted Christmas pets coming into the shelter at the end of February and into March, she said.

East Road Pets assistant manager Caroline McEwan said the store stressed the responsibility of owning a pet before customers bought Christmas presents, especially with many people going away on holiday this time of year.

This year, parents were generally steering away from bigger pets such as kittens and puppies, because of the high workload involved, she said.

The store also encouraged people to buy pet equipment and offered vouchers, which allowed recipients to come back after Christmas to choose their own pet after some careful thought.

Those who did decide to go ahead with buying a pet as a Christmas surprise were told about pet-owner's responsibilities, she said.

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