By CHUCK BALLARO
If you're planning on giving someone a pet for the holidays, make sure that person wants and can handle a pet, and make sure he/she knows about it.
Area shelters are more than willing to help make your pet ownership dreams a reality, just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.
Pet adoptions traditionally increase in December, and sometimes that leads to the gifting of an animal that the prospective owner may not necessarily want.
Ria Brown, public relations manager for Lee County Domestic Animal Services, said they don't recommend that route, but there are other methods.
"If someone would like to give a gift, we suggest they get a gift certificate from us and pick out their own pet," Brown said. "Adopting a pet is a personal thing and the person receiving it should pick their own pet and make sure it fits their lifestyle."
Jerri Howard, shelter director at the Animal Refuge Center in North Fort Myers, said she does not push for people to come and adopt animals as gifts, because parents with small children with a small dog or kitten is one thing, but people saying they want to get one for their elderly mother who is lonely is not a good idea, especially if they aren't looking for a pet.
Another problem getting a pet for a senior is they could bring allergies, which can be serious for older people.
"Many seniors have allergies, respiratory issues, COPD, asthma, or they're on oxygen which doesn't allow for pet hair or dander," Howard said.
It's great to have that companionship, but we want to make sure they can take care of the pet," Brown said. "We wouldn't recommend to someone who can't get around a dog that has to be walked three times a day.
Brown said shelter for years shied away from adoptions during the holidays because they were afraid there wouldn't be a lifelong commitment to the pet.
But they've also learned there are many people thinking about getting a pet, it's just they thought they would do it in December.
"Shelter pets are sitting here. We don't want to lose an opportunity to put a pet in a good home," Brown said.
Both organizations screen prospective adopters for their viability to have pets.
"If someone is going to gift an animal, we lose control of that. We want to make sure someone wants it and is allowed to have it where they're living," Howard said.
Lee County Domestic Animal Services holds regular promotions and December is no exception with two of them, Brown said.
"We're holding our black tie affair, where all black or mostly black cats will be just $10," Brown said. "For all other pets, we're going to have holiday stockings where they reach in and grab a coupon for anywhere from $20 to $50 off the regular fee."