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VALLEY WEEKEND | FOR THE KIDS

Think Before Buying a Pet for the Holidays

Experts say adoption should be carefully considered, including age of children involved and size of the home.

November 14, 1996|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If your family is considering adopting a dog for Christmas or Hanukkah, now's the time to start planning for it.

Recently, the Los Angeles chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals merged with the Southern California Humane Society to become spca/LA. As the holiday season looms, spca/LA is distributing a brochure with the common-sense slogan, "Before you buy a dog--Think!"

If, for instance, you inquire about dog adoption at one of the county's animal shelters in Agoura or Castaic, the staff will gently but firmly inquire about such information as the size of your home and the size of your children.

According to Bob Ballinger, spokesman for those facilities, "Adopting an animal is an emotional thing [and] there's a flurry of adoption inquiries around Christmas."

The closer people get to holiday time, he said, the less they reflect on questions such as "Is a small apartment with little children a good situation for a big dog?"

Not recommended, said Ballinger, a sentiment echoed by the spca/LA. A big dog might not be able to adjust to cramped quarters, and children younger than 8 may not be ready to do their part to care for the new family member.

And, in cases involving apartment dwellers, his staff raises an even more no-nonsense question: "Is your landlord going to allow pet adoption?"

Such inquiries may seem intrusive, but they are a timely necessity. Otherwise, Ballinger reflects solemnly, "We find folks have to bring the dog back--so our people want to work with them in advance."

This is also the policy at the animal shelters operated by the city in North Hollywood and Chatsworth and at Glendale's shelter. The pet adoption programs that spca/LA conducts on weekends at Petco and PETsMART stores in the Valley and Santa Clarita require written answers to these kind of questions.

*

One particularly clear-headed spca/LA suggestion for holiday pet adoption is: "Because of the chaotic atmosphere surrounding the holidays, don't buy a pet as a gift."

Providing the prospective gift receiver knows the commitment needed to own a pet and truly wants one, the spca/LA recommends buying a gift certificate available at its shelters and redeemable for a dog or cat after the holiday fuss.

Adoption fees start at $40, which covers a state-mandated spaying, shots and license, and can run to a total of $70 and in some cases $90, depending on the dog. This is just the beginning, SPCA officials, point out. Following adoption, they say, be prepared to spend at least $400 a year to maintain the dog in good health.

Animal care experts advise folks to get an early holiday season start to find the right breed and age of dog for the family, thinking through various options and learning what's involved in dog ownership. "It's not like buying a piece of furniture," cautions Bob Ballinger.

DETAILS

* FYI: For information about pet adoption programs on weekends in the Valley and Santa Clarita, call the spca/LA at (213) 730-5300. Or contact the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control shelter in Castaic, (818) 367-8065, or Agoura, (818) 991-0071, the city shelter in North Hollywood, (818) 764-7061, and Chatsworth, (818) 882-8800, or the Glendale shelter, (818) 242-1128. Valley Petco or PETsMART stores also offer adoption services on weekends in cooperation with these public agencies.

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