The Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has called on New Zealanders to think carefully
before buying pets as Christmas presents.
"There are so many animals who need good and loving homes and there are so many families and individuals who would
benefit from having a furry or feathered friend to look after. Obviously, it would be marvellous if every pet in New
Zealand ended up with a family that truly cared for it.
"But we need to be realistic and recognise that not everyone who is thinking of buying an animal is able to offer it the
required environment or is fully prepared for the responsibilities involved in pet ownership," says Royal New Zealand
SPCA Chief, Executive Officer Peter Blomkamp.
Mr Blomkamp says pets need to be seen both as members of their owners' families and as ongoing responsibilities for 365
days a year. They are not, he insists, toys, to be forgotten about when Christmas is over or when they lose their
novelty value. Nor should they be cast aside when the inconvenience or cost of ownership becomes too great "Cute kittens
must have their litter boxes cleaned regularly, need several small meals each day and must have vaccinations each year.
Cuddly puppies must be trained, walked regularly, licensed and forgiven for muddy paws or for digging up the garden.
"Those who are used to animals take this sort of thing in their stride and understand the need for training. But a
family that has no experience of such problems really does need to think very carefully before committing itself to pet
ownership," he says.
"The same goes for people who live in rented accommodation. Some landlords will allow a cat or dog on the premises. But
what do you do when you have to move and the next landlord has a 'No Pets' clause in his agreement?
Alternatively, how will you look after your pet if you go away frequently?" Mr Blomkamp asks "You also need to consider
whether a pet can be accommodated within the family's budget. Kittens and puppies are often advertised as 'free' but
their food and veterinary care will certainly cost quite a bit, even after vaccination, de-sexing and (in the case of a
puppy) registration have been paid for," he adds.
According to Mr Blomkamp, pet owners must realise that they're in for the long haul. Dogs and cats, he points out, often
live for 12 to 15 years or longer.
"Every year thousands of pets, particularly dogs and cats, are put to death, not because they are ill, old or have done
anything wrong, but because the novelty has worn off and they've become inconvenient.
"If we really care about animals, we won't rush into buying them without thinking through the consequences. Of course,
there are huge numbers of New Zealanders who do have the time, space, attitude and resources needed for looking after an
animal. But there are others who would be better advised to defer ownership until they are in a position to offer their
pet the home it needs," he says.