Alternative to Giving Pets for Christmas

A puppy or kitten would make a cute present, but the Humane Society of Smith County says that may not be such a good idea on Christmas day.

"After the holidays are over and things get back to normal, people realize maybe this is not the gift they should've given, and then they end up coming back to the shelter," Gayle Helms, executive director of the HSOSC, said.

So the Humane Society is encouraging people to buy a gift certificate instead.

"To adopt a pet is a real personal thing, so we feel like the person that is going to be taking care of the animal needs to be the one to come and select the pet," Helms said.

Another thing the Humane Society wants people to know is that during all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, a new pet can easily be ignored. The pet needs to get acquainted with its new surroundings -- something difficult to do on Christmas day.

"Especially for puppies and kittens, they love to chew, just like babies do, and so there's always that foliage or the lights," Helms said. "The extension cords and the lights can be hazardous to their health."

The Humane Society says there is a safe way to give a pet, if you've already bought one for Christmas.

"We would strongly discourage people from putting the bows around the necks, just because they could become entangled in them or also, don't put an animal in a box, close it up, and wrap it," Helms said. "Pets can suffocate. And it would just make a really sad time of the year for everybody if something like that happened."

The Humane Society also says the best time to bring the pet home is in the morning so it can have the daylight hours to get familiar with its new family. If you're thinking about giving your kids a dog, the Humane Society says a large-breed dog is better because small-breed dogs are more fragile for kids to handle. Gift certificates are available. A cat costs $55, and a dog costs $65.

Julie Tam, reporting.