MIAMI COUNTY — The holiday season is here and many people are searching for just the right gifts for their loved ones.
But before anyone brings home a new four-legged member of the family for Christmas, Miami County Animal Shelter Director Marcia Doncaster has a few words of advice.
“Of course any time that you are thinking of adding a new pet to your family, you need to be aware of all of the responsibilities. It’s great to get a puppy for Christmas, but the puppy grows up and becomes a dog,” she said. “It’s not just a present, it’s not a new toy. It is a living, breathing animal that needs to be taken care of.”
Sometimes, once the holiday fun is over and they realize how difficult it can be to care for a puppy or kitten, people surrender their new pets to the shelter.
“I can’t say we get a lot, but one is too many for me,” Doncaster said.
“There’s nothing like seeing the look on a child’s face — or anybody’s face — when they see a new puppy. Their faces light up. I just can’t stress enough the commitment that it takes,” she said. “If more people were willing to make that commitment, we would have less returns.”
Many times pets are surrendered because the new owner found out they or a family member had allergies or other health problems, or because another pet didn’t get along with the new addition. But it’s not uncommon that the owner did not take into consideration the emotional and financial commitment of adopting an animal.
Think it through and then come to the shelter and adopt a new pet rather than buying one, Doncaster said.
“They want to have a family at Christmastime too,” she added.
Doncaster also suggests bringing any current pets to the shelter for a meet and greet to make sure both animals will get along. When you do bring home a new pet, take care to introduce the new animal slowly so your other pets don’t feel like their space is being invaded, she recommended.
She also offered some tips for keeping your animals happy and healthy during the holidays and winter months
“Please don’t leave any little toys and wrapping paper where your pets can get it — it could be poisonous,” she said. “Poinsettia plants are very poisonous to dogs, so you don’t want to let them get a hold of it.”
Pet owners should also take care to keep paws clean after walks, as there is a risk dogs could ingest or be irritated by road salt and antifreeze on their fur and skin. Be sure to check their feet for dry or cracked skin as well.
For outdoor dogs, make sure they have plenty of fresh, unfrozen water, Doncaster said. They must also have their own shelter big enough for them stand up, turn around, and lay down. It should also have a floor covered in wood shavings or straw — not blankets, which can absorb moisture and freeze.
Outdoor dogs will also require extra food in the colder months, as they tend to burn more calories in cold weather.
While giving an animal a home might be a great gift for both you and the cats and dogs at the shelter, there are other ways to help if a new pet isn’t an option right now.
The shelter always accepts donations of dog and cat food and treats, but they especially need grooming items like items like waterless animal shampoo. The dry shampoo is combed through their fur and keeps them clean without getting them wet, which is difficult in cold weather.
They are also seeking donations of flea spray, animal beds and items for the humans that run the shelter, like office supplies and cleaning supplies, especially bleach, cleaning sprays and laundry detergent.
“It takes a lot to run a shelter,” Doncaster said.
Reach Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org.