Think carefully before buying a Christmas pet

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published December 11, 2013

 Leonard the cat is an example of some of the cats, dogs and other animals up for adoption at the Michigan Humane Society.

Leonard the cat is an example of some of the cats, dogs and other animals up for adoption at the Michigan Humane Society.

Photo provided by the Michigan Humane Society

A new cat or dog under the Christmas tree, like a sweater, may be soft and fuzzy. But unlike the sweater, a pet doesn’t come with a trouble-free return policy.

Animal welfare advocates are reminding metro Detroiters to think carefully before acquiring a furry family member this time of year.

Jeff Randazzo, chief animal control officer and director of the Macomb County Animal Shelter, said people should identify why they wish to adopt a pet before doing it and not “adopt on a whim.”

For some people, a cat or dog can be a gift for kids, or it can fill the void of a recently deceased pet, he explained.

“I always promote adopting and never shopping,” Randazzo said.

Randazzo said his shelter facilitates cat and dog adoptions. Michigan Humane Society spokesman Ryan McTigue said his agency runs adoptions for cats, dogs and smaller animals like guinea pigs and rabbits.

McTigue said the Humane Society encourages every member of a residence to visit the animal before adoption so there are no surprises. Randazzo said his shelter encourages a group decision, when relevant.

“That’s why we have an adoption process,” he said. “We still see a lot of people coming in, and we make them bring the whole family in, and then we do an interviewing process.”

During that adoption process, the shelter often takes a potential owner’s lifestyle into account. Randazzo implored prospective pet owners to only adopt an animal if the person has plenty of time to meet the animal’s needs.

“For example, if you’re regularly a busier person … pets need lots of affection and attention and structure,” he said. “When we think of shelter dogs, a lot of those dogs still have to continue on with training.”

McTigue said gift givers can use a free Android mobile app called Right Dog that helps match a pet owner’s lifestyle to the best dog based on its personality. What makes a dog ideal could hinge upon the amount of time one has to spend with it or the presence of children in a family.

Knowing this information in advance can also help the animal shelter do a better job of matchmaking.

“We really do a good job of getting information from people who are surrendering the animal,” McTigue said.

When considering the right pet, a critter’s age might also play a role.

“Puppies and kittens are going to require a little more time and a little more patience. They’re still learning,” McTigue said. “A lot of people prefer to get an older animal that’s already established.”

Even after the adoption process is complete, pet owners need to remember that caretaking responsibilities don’t end when the Christmas tree is taken down. They also need to consider the maintenance costs for food and medical care.

Learn more about the Michigan Humane Society at www.michigan or by calling (248) 283-1000. Find out more about the Macomb County Animal Shelter at www.macomb shelter or by calling (586) 469-5115.