TORONTO - Rover and Kitty might have seemed like the perfect presents during the mad rush leading up to Christmas. But each year, animal shelters across the country prepare for a mass return of unwanted pets in the post-holiday season. "It's a common problem unfortunately at Christmas time," said Michael O'Sullivan, the executive director of the Humane Society of Canada. "It's a real example of the best intentions gone wrong."
The society hears about an influx of animals at shelters, rescue organizations and humane societies across the country every January. Fortunately, the increase isn't as great as it used to be thanks to a number of public awareness campaigns that discourage gifting pets during the holidays. Some shelters even have strict policies prohibiting gift adoptions. O'Sullivan said people don't always realize that all pets - whether it's a dog, cat, turtle, rabbit, guinea pig or bird - require not only affection, but time and money. Animals also aren't a "one-size-fits-all" gift; some pets require more exercise, food and medical care than others. Some dogs live as long as 18 years, while cats have an average life span of 20 years.