Surprising your family with a cute puppy at Christmas might make for a picture perfect moment, but is it the best gift? There are quite a few things to consider before buying a pet as a present.
A pet can be a wonderful addition to the family, but it can also be a lot of work and expense. Before you decide whether or not to purchase a pet, consider these points.
Consider the person who will be caring for the pet
"If you are going to surprise somebody, you need to think long and hard about what that animal needs. Does it need a lot of care? Does it need a lot of expensive care and is the person ready to handle that amount of care," says Carrie Libera, with the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley.
Instead, Libera recommends incorporating the experience of picking out a pet as part of the gift.
"Going to a shelter and finding that connection is so special, so I wouldn't want people to lose out on that experience. Instead say 'I'm going to buy you a pet, let's go pick one out together.' That's going to let that person be part of the decision making, that's going to set them up for success."
If you still want to give something tangible, Libera recommends giving a basket full of pet toys or supplies to tip off the person about the special experience yet to come.
Consider the long term
How long will the pet live? How much will the pet cost initially and later in the pet's life?
Consider where you purchase
Adopting a pet at a shelter is often a package deal which includes shots, spaying or neutering, medical care and support after adoption. If you want to purchase a special breed from a breeder, do your homework.
"We suggest people visiting breeder in person," says Blake Derrick with the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. Buyers should be skeptical of websites selling breeds that require a wire transfer.
"A lot of people start their search online, which is good because you are doing your research, but you have to be careful with fraudulent entities."
You can begin your research by checking the pet store or breeder on the Better Business Bureau's website.
Remember Minnesota has a pet lemon law
If a breed is misrepresented, the animal is sick or has hereditary defects, you can return the animal for a replacement or a refund for ten days after purchase. Read about the Pet Lemon Law.
Consider delaying the decision
The bottom line is that adding a pet is like adding a member to your family, so it should never be an impulse purchase but instead one you carefully consider and research. Since the holidays are so busy and pets require so much time, perhaps consider delaying the decision or the purchase until after the season.
"The holidays are a very busy time year, so maybe Christmas morning isn't the best time to open up a puppy," says Carrie Libera. "Often, it's good to wait until the holiday dies down and then get the animal."
Shannon Slatton, reporting
on Twitter: @sslatton
Nov. 30, 2016