Should I Give My Child a Pet as a Gift?

In Lifestyle, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

As the holidays draw near, parents are faced with the expensive and stressful task of fulfilling their children’s wish lists. For some children, this is a bicycle, a Nintendo Switch, or an elusive Hatchimal toy. In contrast, some really ambitious children spend the year begging their parents for a pet: a list that may include hamsters, hedgehogs, turtles, cats, dogs, ponies, and unicorns. While the price of a pet from a store or the adoption fees from a shelter may seem palatable, there is so much more to consider when giving a child a pet as a gift.

For example, it seems that any time there is a popular movie or event involving a specific animal, there is a surge in purchases of that animal. For example, when 101 Dalmatians, the live action version was released, many people purchased Dalmatian puppies, only to later abandon them. This is because owners acted impulsively and had unrealistic expectations of the dog based on the movie characters. In addition, many parents buy cute bunnies for their children on Easter, only for rescue shelters to be inundated with bunnies over the following months. We therefore urge restraint and a thoughtful approach to pets.

  1. A pet is a responsibility, not a novelty. This means that a pet purchase or adoption should not be based on impulse. If there is a greater purpose, such as companionship and a desire to consistently teach responsibility, then a pet may be well worth your while.
  2. Pets grow up, sometimes by a lot. Dogs don’t stay puppies. That little puppy with giant paws can grow into an enormous 100 pound dog before its second birthday. While a baby piglet may be small and precious, that pig can grow to 770 pounds full size!
  3. Are you prepared to be the pet’s sole caregiver? This is what will happen if you are giving a pet to a young child. Regardless of whether a pet becomes a loving companion or a novelty to your child, it is highly unlikely that your child will embrace all of the daily responsibilities that come with pet ownership.
  4. Pets can be expensive. It costs A LOT to feed, groom, train, and board your pet. And these costs continue for years. Even if your pet is on some sort of veterinary care plan, accidents or unforeseen ailments can run up enormous veterinary costs. For example, if your dog needs dental surgery, it can easily cost $1000. In addition, pets develop additional medical needs as they grow older, requiring even further veterinary care.
  5. Become familiar with the type of animal you are interested in, including the specific breed. Animals have traits and personalities specific to the animal type and breed, in addition to the specific personality of the animal itself. Certain animals may not be a good fit, or even a safe choice for your children.
  6. Be aware of breed limitations. Apartments and homeowners associations may have contracts that prohibit ownership of certain types of animals and specific breeds of animals.

New Direction Family Law

Your children are the center of your life. We understand and appreciate this. If you are contemplating a separation or are seeking to modify an existing child support order, let us help you. At New Direction Family Law our attorneys take pride in providing compassionate, effective legal advocacy. Our office provides representation in Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit our website.