GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Seeing the joy on your child's face when you surprise them with a dog or cat on Christmas morning is a Kodak moment.
But sometimes that moment fades quickly, leaving families with a pet they can't take care of and the difficult decision to give it up.
There's no doubt owning a pet is hard work, and even though your child might see you as the best Santa ever for adding a furry member to the family this Christmas, the experts suggest you think twice before you do it.
"I put her first because she can't take care of herself," says Debbie Dreiling. Her four-year-old lab, Hazely, can be a handful for this teacher and tutor. Often Dreling has to draft friends into service to help care for her dog who needs "walks every single day, sometimes twice a day on the weekends," Dreling says.
That daily routine plus their medical expenses are things every family should think about before giving a pet as a Christmas gift. CLAWS Rescue and Adoption Center only adopts pets out to people if they live in the house where the animal will live.
Although three cats are going to Mesa County families this Christmas from the CLAWS shelter, officials say they ensured the person getting the cat will be able to give it the attention it needs and deserves. CLAWS Staffer Valerie Mazrine says, "We worry about someone getting an animal that isn't prepared to take care of a kitty for the next 22 years."
CLAWS officials say there have been a few times where they've had to take cats back because their families couldn't take care of them, they didn't get along with other pets in the home or their owners were allergic.
Experts say animals deserve security and too many moves can confuse them. "We encourage people to really consider what they're bringing into their homes because these kitties are looking for a forever home," Mazrine says.
Fortunately for Hazely, Dreiling is happy to celebrate the holidays with her, but says you get what you give from your pet. "Lots of love and they give you lots of love back," Dreling says.
Officials say animals are usually given up before they're two-years-old, so it may take some families quite awhile to realize the scope of the responsibility they've undertaken with Christmas pets.
Another thing to consider, the cost of owning a pet. Trips to the vet, food and training could cost hundreds of dollars, so being financially stable is also important for your pet's happiness.
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