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The holidays are a time for giving, but be warned, some gifts require a lot more responsibility than others. 

Every child’s wish, after watching Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, was to receive a puppy wearing a big red bow in a hat box for Christmas. And when 101 Dalmatians hit screens, requests for dappled pups soared. Although giving a pet as a surprise present may seem like a grand gesture, the reality is you’ve just left someone with a huge and unexpected responsibility. 

Chantall Giliomee, marketing assistant at Durban and Coast SPCA, says, “We do see a very slight increase in adoptions during the festive season, however we have a very large number of of unwanted and stray animals taken in over the holidays, too.” 

According to Giliomee, it’s never advisable to surprise someone with a pet as gift. “Pet ownership is a big responsibility and a lifelong commitment. 

“Having a pet requires an emotional and financial commitment. And the person receiving the pet may not always be in a financial position to take care of the pet’s needs. 

“A pet owner has to also prepare for a pet joining their home. It is always best to choose your own pet as you need to have an emotional connection,” she said.

  • Clean drinking water – this should always be available to your pet and should be changed regularly (more than once a day, especially if left outside).
  • Food – the proper diet required by your pet in order to provide them with all the nutrients needed. Dietary requirements will depend on the brand of food and pet. Different brands of food will have a feeding guideline on the packaging.
  • Shelter – somewhere warm, dry and safe from the elements. If your dog will be staying outside, a raised kennel must be provided in order to keep them away from rain.
  • Exercise – pets should be able to run and move freely. They should NOT be chained.
  • Your property should be fully fenced.
  • Veterinary treatment – vaccinations and sterilisation should be done. Medical attention must be provided if your pet falls ill. Regular flea and tick medication should be given. There are different varieties of this on the market, dosage will depend on each individual brand.
  • Kindness – you must be kind to you pet and affectionate. Animals are sentient beings and can experience pain, sadness, joy and loneliness.
  • In addition to food and pet supplies, there will be often unexpected veterinary costs that you will need to budget for. 
Aside from all the responsibilities, pet-parents can also prepare themselves for a rewarding experience. “A pet will love you unconditionally and give you longlasting friendship. Having a pet can even reduce stress levels. “When adopting a pet, you also have the knowledge that you have saved a life and given an animal the greatest gift it could ask for,” said Giliomee.