Allen County shelter: avoid pets as holiday gifts

LIMA — With gift-giving season quickly approaching, the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals & Humane Society of Allen County are warning against giving animals as presents.

The shelter, a nonprofit that has both cats and dogs, has a no-adoption policy during the week of Christmas to avoid the practice, shelter director Jason Asaro said. He said adopting an animal can be at least a 15-year commitment, and a lot of thought should go into it.

“That’s usually when people make those spur-of-the-moment decisions or they’re buying a Christmas present for their family member,” Asaro said. “Then, of course, the buyer’s remorse or the reality sets in a month later that the puppy is too hard to handle.”

Asaro said people should think of adopting an animal as if they would have a toddler for the next 15 or more years. He said people should have both their hearts and minds involved in decisions like this.

Consequences of buyer’s remorse

Asaro said from January to March, the shelter typically receives more animal surrenders than any other time of the year, an increase he mostly attributes to people who received pets as gifts being unable to devote the time, energy and money needed to the animal. He said in the past year, there has been a general increase in pet surrenders due to financial difficulties.

In the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, Asaro said there were more surrenders to the shelter, especially with rent and other prices increasing.

Asaro said the OSPCA will take back any animal that came from its shelter for a fee, and other animals on a case-by-case basis.

“As far as sick and injured animals, we try to always take them back,” Asaro said. “We try to never turn them away.”

Asaro said the shelter slows adoptions around the holidays to avoid animals being given as gifts. He said those wanting to adopt during that time should consider how any festivities will affect an animal.

“A week or two before or a week or two after, all the hussle and bustle is over; all the families, you’ve gotten so busy during that time, so you don’t really have the time to get the animal where it really needs to acclimate properly and sometimes that can cause behavioral issues,” Asaro said.

Asaro said prospective owners are required to meet a potential pet before the shelter will allow them to take it home. If there are other animals in the home, they must meet the new one before adoption.

Bill Hanz, a volunteer at the shelter, said oftentimes a dog or other animal chooses its owner rather than the owner choosing it, and that can’t take place if someone else chooses the dog as a surprise gift.

Asaro said this is often true, but sometimes an animal is skittish or shy and needs someone to give it a chance before it warms up to a new person. He said in one case, a woman adopted a cat who was scared of everything, but after she warmed up to her and received a lot of affection, she started showing more love and sitting on her owner’s lap.

Hanz said before adopting, people should consider that different animals have different needs, and these needs can change with age. He said people have to be mentally and financially prepared for changing situations.

Count the cost before adoption

Stephanie Cox, a shelter volunteer and president of Happy Tails Pup Partners, said finances and what a person can handle should be taken into consideration before adoption. She said dog breeds and how they interact with children are important to consider.

Although some shelters allow people to gift the adoption fee of someone else to allow them to meet the animals before taking one home, Asaro said the Allen County shelter does not.

“If you can afford the adoption fee, that is kind of a way of knowing that you’re going to be willing to pay for the future of whatever may be coming up,” Asaro said.

The shelter charges anywhere from $200 to $500 for dog adoption and $60 or $75 for cats. All animals are chipped, spayed or neutered and are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Asaro said the Allen County Shelter performs background checks on prospective owners to look for violent or drug-related felonies, domestic violence or a history of animal cruelty. He said the shelter also checks a person’s veterinarian history to see how they cared for previous animals and see the health of any current pets.

The shelter does not allow any same-day adoptions so it can be thorough in vetting its customers, Asaro said. This has significantly reduced the surrender rate since its implementation.

“We don’t have a lot of [surrenders] but we would love to reduce the number to zero, and that’s why we have fairly stringent policies,” Hanz said.