There may be a place for a brand new Fido or Fluffy under the Christmas tree after all. For years, humane societies have been recommending against bringing a new puppy or kitten into a house already going crazy with the stress of the season. And giving an animal as a Christmas gift to someone not expecting another mouth to feed too often turned out badly, with the pet frequently ending up back in the shelter. But in a change in policy prompted partly by the high number of animals available for adoption and partly by changes in family lifestyles, the Kingston Humane Society is following the lead of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and is now saying a Christmas adoption may be appropriate under certain circumstances.
They are calling the new approach "Homes for the Holidays." "It is a bit of a shift," said Connie Ball, executive director of the local humane society. "The OSPCA has also gone for it and said Christmas can be a good time for individual families to consider adopting. So they have also changed their position somewhat." She said the decision to try the new policy was based on what would be appropriate for the local community. "We are recognizing that a lot of people have different lifestyles and are having a more quiet time at Christmas." She said the humane society still recommends that everyone in the household be involved in the adoption to ensure the whole family is in favour.
Continuing the adoption process over Christmas, instead of halting adoptions for the month, may also make a dent in the number of animals waiting in shelters. The Kingston Humane Society currently has 16 dogs and 50 cats awaiting adoption -- and more animals out in foster care. "We still have quite a few animals here, especially cats and kittens," said Ball. "It was a mild winter last year and we had a lot of waves of animals coming in." It was believed that the change in policy was worth trying. "It will help the animals, and if it works out well for people, then why not?" said Ball. The Christmas adoption effort starts Dec. 11 and runs through Dec. 30, with the humane society also offering some financial incentives for people to adopt a pet. Dec. 11 will also see a sale of Christmas trees at the Binnington Court shelter, with 25% of the money raised going to the humane society.
Ball said the adoption procedure would be the same as any other time of the year, with the regular adoption form, counselling and screening of prospective new owners. They still want to discourage impulse or whim adoptions. "It's not like a sale." The humane society is making as many adoption options as possible to potential owners, such as adoption pre-approval or gift certificates. Ball said this is the first time the Kingston shelter has tried the Christmas adoption effort, but believes more and more shelters are considering it. She said the effort would be reevaluated before it is repeated.