Local animal shelters are cautioning Christmas shoppers not to be hasty in choosing pets as gifts.
Shelter staff report an increase in abandoned animals in the months following Christmas. Even the Kerr County Rabies & Animal Control Department, which operates the only "kill" shelter in the area and tries particularly hard to find animals homes, said people should avoid gifting pets unless the recipient chooses the animal and is willing to care for the creature its whole life.
"Seeing an animal before you adopt it, spending time with an animal before you adopt it, is very important," said Charity Fegenbusch, assistant animal control supervisor with the county shelter. "Some people know instantly, and some people come by several times before they make a decision."
The majority of the time, gift givers find they would have chosen the wrong animal if they'd adopted without consulting with the recipient, Fegenbusch said.
"Usually, people are good about listening to us," Fegenbusch said.
She also said the most common reason people surrender pets is a change in living situation caused by moving.
"Every year, we have people bring back animals they received as pets, because they were not suitable for their lifestyle," Fegenbusch said.
"After Christmas, we get lots of phone calls," echoed Jennie Woodland, manager of the Kathleen C. Cailloux Human Society of Kerrville. "Especially on up to June. People say, 'We got this animal for our child, and it got too big,' or 'It's too expensive.'"
Woodland, who's managed the shelter for 10 years, indicated adopted puppies are neglected after they grow up. She said keeping a dog in the yard all the time is wrong -- especially if it grew up in the home exposed to a lot of human contact.
"This is a lifetime commitment -- the animal's lifetime commitment," Woodland said of pet guardianship.
Woodland said the guardian of a dog or cat must be willing and able to provide medicine for heartworms, flees and other issues, regular medical checkups and dental work.
The gift giver also should consider whether the recipient is allergic to an animal, Woodland said. She said cats with long hair are more likely to cause allergic reactions in people. Matching an animal's temperament to its guardian is important, she said. Kittens and puppies have high energy levels, while older animals are more laid back and suitable for people with less energy.
Fegenbusch said it's important for people to research what breed of dog might be right for them. Temperament, age, size and hair type are all important considerations, she said. Dog breeds suitable for apartments include cocker spaniels, Shih Tzus, schnauzers, poodles and other smaller breed dogs, although energy levels will vary among breeds and individual animals. Poodles, schnauzers and other dogs that require grooming are less likely to case allergic reactions in people, she said.
"If you're running every day, a lab would be great for you," Fegenbusch said. "If you're elderly, and you're looking for a lapdog, consider a shitzu or schnauzer."
The humane society had 32 dogs and 137 cats as of Thursday. Dogs include Bojangles, a 1-year-old terrier mix who is house trained, frisky and requires lots of exercise. Also available are Bear, a "very sweet" 10- to 12-week-old German shepherd mix, and a "beautiful hound mix" named June Carter, who is 7 months old, house trained and very shy and passive.
Cats include Jonah Hex, a 5-month-old who has medium-length black hair, and Chyna, a short-haired, 8-month-old tabby.
The humane society can be reached at 367-7722 or visited at 2900 Junction Highway in Kerrville.
Staff at the Freeman-Fritts Veterinary Clinic and Shelter reported Wednesday they have three puppies and "tons of kittens" but did not have precise figures on number of animals. The facility can be reached at 257-4144 or visited at 515 Spur 100 in Kerrville.
The county animal shelter, which had 40 dogs and 10 cats as of Wednesday, can be reached at 257-3100 or visited at 3600 Loop 534 in Kerrville.
Fegenbusch said animal shelter staff do a great job of working to get animals placed in homes, although when there is no more room or available guardians, they must euthanize the animals. She declined to say how many animals are euthanized every month.
"A lot more than we want to," Fegenbusch said. "Unfortunately, it's a reality we can't escape as long as there's irresponsible pet owners."
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