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Do puppies make good Christmas gifts? It depends, say experts

People not ready to make a full commitment should consider fostering an animal during the holidays, advises the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A new pet should not come as a surprise to any family member, say animal advocates.

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A new pet should not come as a surprise to any family member, say animal advocates.

Santas beware!

The delight of finding a surprise puppy under the tree on Christmas morning will quickly wear off, say animal advocates.

"Pets are not products – acquiring an animal is a very personal decision and there needs to be time and thought given to that, to ensure it is the right fit for that person," said Kathy Powelson, executive director of Paws for Hope.

Every year, the charity puts on a campaign asking people to not give animals as presents. Many end up in shelters after children get bored of them and others are abandoned after people realize how much work potty training a puppy is. Paws for Hope encourages people to give "adopt gift certificates" instead, with the promise they will get a pet when everyone can prepare for the new family member together.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says welcoming an animal into your home during the holiday season can be rewarding, depending on the situation.

"It’s really important that anyone who is adding a pet as a family member, that everyone in the family is aware that it is happening and is prepared for it," said Amy Morris, head of policy and outreach at BC SPCA.

"I think where it is dangerous is giving pets as gifts to people who are not expecting it. That’s what we focus on."

She says some people even plan far in advance to welcome a new puppy into their home during the holidays, because that is the only time they can take time off work to help their new furry friend settle in.

Fostering an animal during the holidays can also be a good option for people who are not ready to commit to an animal for its entire life. Animals lucky enough to find fosters are more likely to get picked up by a forever family, said Morris.

"I think the best thing is to go to a local shelter and to not take home a forever friend, but to maybe take home a pet as a foster for the holidays and give them a chance of finding their forever home," she said.

"Many families are able to take on the responsibliity of fostering even if they can’t take on the responsibility of a full time pet and that gives an animal a break from the shelter."

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