Pets for Christmas: Unethical?

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In the run-up to the big day, our thoughts turn to what we want for Christmas. A whole array of ideas may flood our minds from a new dress for works Christmas party to a new watch, however, many people decide what they really want for Christmas is something a bit more unique, they want a new pet. Whether that be a new cat, dog, hamster, a fish or even an exotic bird, with the rates of pets being given back to pet shelters after the festive period, is buying a new pet for Christmas unethical?

The problem is that the novelty of having a pet can wear off quickly, especially for children. Despite the fact that a child may have promised that they would look after the animal, they may realise that it’s not as fun as they thought it would be. Children can forget about the less glamorous side of having an animal like taking the animal for walks, having to clean or pick up its waste and washing the animal. Furthermore, children and adults alike fall in love with small fluffy kittens and puppies forgetting that the animal will grow up, a child may become less interested in the animal when it starts to become bigger. A recent admission by Sona Sibary reflects this when she said in a first-person feature in the Daily Mail that: ‘I get rid of dogs as soon as they stop being cute puppies’. She also writes that ‘over the past four years I have fallen in love with four puppies and, on each occasion, driven miles with hundreds of pounds of cash in my pocket to buy them. Then, months later, I have turned my back on them and given them away’. Clearly this is extremely cruel and unethical and highlights the issue of buying an animal on a whim, which can especially happen during the Christmas period.

Additionally, when people want to buy a pet for Christmas they can forget to factor in the expense of owning a pet and realise that they can’t afford to have one, especially pedigree cats and dogs which can cost thousands of pounds. They may simply keep the pet but not be able to provide the animal with the resources it needs. According to Money Supermarket, in the UK pet owners paid out a record 775 million in pet fees in the year of 2017. The average cost of owning a pet throughout its whole lifetime can range from £16,000 to £33,000 for a dog or a cat according to the Money Advice Service. Also, lifetime pet insurance costs around £472 for a dog and £285 for a cat.

Is Fostering A Pet The Better Choice?

Fostering a pet before adopting a pet for Christmas may be the answer to the ethical issue, through charities like the RSPCA, Fosterers can provide temporary homes for animals until they find a loving permanent home. Fostering can also help the animal recover from abuse and neglect and also frees up space in the shelters for other animals to be rescued. This also allows people to really reflect on whether a new, permanent addition to the household is right for them and whether they have the time and resources to provide the animal with the care that they require.

Therefore, before buying a pet for Christmas make sure to factor in the fact that having an animal requires a great deal of responsibility and requires feeding, exercise and affection. Having said all this, if you know that buying a pet for Christmas is the right thing for you and know that you will be able to provide lifetime care for the animal, long after Christmas and for many Christmases to come, it can be one of the most rewarding things to care for a pet.

Overall, as cliche as it may sound, a pet is for life, not just for Christmas.

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Final year Language and Linguistics student, Feminist, Vegetarian and music lover.

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