The holidays are a wonderful time for giving to others and spending time with family. Shopping for gifts takes a lot of time and thought for each individual family member or friend.
A gift that may seem fun and cute at the time might turn out to be a problem in the future, such as giving live animals as Christmas gifts. Our office has received many phone calls over the years from parents panicking because they don’t know how to take care of their child’s new fuzzy pony or they didn’t realize how much work bottle feeding a calf would be and they need to find another home for their aunt’s well-intended gift.
Before you think about giving an animal to someone as a gift, it’s a good idea to first check with the parent or caregiver to make sure that it is okay and to make sure that they understand the responsibility and future expense of taking care of that animal.
Saying that you will come and help them take care of their pet when you don’t live in the same house is oftentimes not practical. Some people are allergic to animals and may not know it. Some animals can live for 20 years or more, and the family must be committed to care for the pet for their lifetime. You don’t want to give a gift that ends up in an animal shelter, gets shuffled from home to home or ends up abandoned on the side of the road.
If you are sure that an animal will be a good gift for a family and they have agreed to it, you may want to give them a gift certificate to a shelter so that they can go and pick out their own pet. Some families may prefer older animals that may not have as much energy and might have better manners. Some families may prefer an animal that has just been weaned so that they may grow up with their pet. If you know a horse-crazy kid that lives in the city, a good alternative gift might be to get them books about horses or maybe just a stuffed animal.
Animals need fresh water at all times, need to be fed according to their body condition score and need exercise. It’s oftentimes difficult for a new pet owner to look at an animal’s condition and decide if more or less food is needed. Animals may also need extra minerals if they are not being fed a complete diet.
They need vaccinations and trips to the veterinarian when they are sick. They need nails or hooves trimmed regularly, which is normally every two months. They may need worm, flea, tick and fly control. They may need a bed, chew toys, fencing, hay or pasture.
Even if the family already has animals, any new additional animal will always take adjustments. This could be a puppy that chews furniture or a goat that crawls under the fence. Animals can be a wonderful addition to any family. They can teach life skills such as responsibility and compassion and can bring much joy and friendship. The main thing to remember before giving animals as gifts is that they cannot be returned to the store if things don’t work out.
For additional information on animal care or livestock issues, please contact Tiffanee Conrad, Agricultural Extension Agent at 997-8255 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.