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Planning Important for Giving Pets as Gifts

Experts say adoption should not be at the last minute, allowing the animal time to get used to its home-- before the holidays.


As the holiday season approaches, is anyone in your family thinking about getting or giving a dog as a gift?

According to Kathy Jenks, director of Ventura County's animal shelter at the Camarillo Airport, now's the time to deal with the adoption option--a transaction costing $50 to $90 and requiring lots of thought.

Emphasizing the importance of planning, she says, "We suspend adoptions the week before Christmas." This is a way of preventing families from rash, emotional, last-minute pet adoptions.

It also means that, if you've been thinking about acquiring a dog from her shelter, you've got only a month to work things out. Whatever you decide to do about a pet this season, "Do it way before [the holiday fuss]--so the animal has time to adjust to its new home," she said.

And she's not the only animal adoption expert locally with such a clear-headed approach. "We will not place a dog as a gift for you to give to somebody else," says Emily Bernie of LIFE Animal Rescue. Her organization coordinates dog adoptions each weekend at the Thousand Oaks Petco store--and beginning next month at the new Petco in Camarillo.

The group requires that the person adopting the dog fill out an application and begin a 14-day waiting process, which involves her organization's inspection of the applicant's home. In other words, you can't just get a dog from her and hand it over to someone else for Hanukkah or Christmas.

Her concerns--and those of the Ventura Humane League, which offers a similar weekend service at the PETsMART store in Oxnard and Ojai--are for the dog as well as the family.

"Small dogs don't have the patience for small children," Bernie says. Kathy Jenks further cautions, "Kids waking up a sleeping puppy or getting into its food dish can get bitten. And don't leave a young child alone or unsupervised with a puppy."

The animal shelter of the Human Society of Ventura County in Ojai operates an adoption program Mondays through Saturdays. A branch of the national organization, the staff makes it their business to acquaint prospective dog owners with issues such as housebreaking and the news that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

The point is that getting a puppy, rather than an adult animal, may be emotionally satisfying, but may pose practical challenges. An older, wiser dog might prove to be a better companion--and still quite adaptable to your family's lifestyle.

In addition to its regular adoption activities, the Humane Society's shelter on Bryant Street in Ojai will offer "Santa and Me," a special holiday-themed photo session on three consecutive Saturdays, beginning Nov. 23. This is for people who already have a pet in their household. For $10 you can get a matted photo of Santa with your pet and other members of the family.

It's a fund-raiser for the Society's "Shep Fund," a program to provide emergency medical treatment for animals.


* FYI: For adoption information call: Ventura County Animal Shelter in Camarillo (805) 388-4341; Humane Society of Ventura County in Ojai (805) 646-6505; LIFE Animal Rescue conducts weekend adoptions at Petco stores in Thousand Oaks and Camarillo (818) 707-2007; and Humane League gives adoption programs at the PETsMART stores in Oxnard, Ojai and Camarillo (805) 642-4595.

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