Christmas presents

Do not give pets as Christmas presents without careful consideration and discussion with the adults in the recipient family

PETER HARRISON

Nancy Astor once accused Winston Churchill of repeating himself in a speech. "If a thing is worth saying, then it is worth repeating," growled the great man in response.

I will take his advice and say again: do not give pets as Christmas presents without careful consideration and discussion with the adults in the recipient family.

Children are at the root of the problem but they mean so well. Of course Billy would like to have a lovely little puppy for a present and Susie would adore a cuddly kitten and would care so well for it, but the fact is that kids soon tire of them. A toy animal can be put away and forgotten in the cupboard as soon as the novelty has worn off and nobody is any the worse for the experience. No trusting animal suffers.

But a pet has a lifetime in front of it, maybe twelve or more years; by then the kids may have left home and their parents have been trying to look after the pets for years, walking in the rain, getting up in the night to let them out, taking them to the vet and facing the bills and carrying heavy loads of pet food back from the supermarket.

Small wonder is it that rescue kennels, staffed by dedicated volunteers, are full of unwanted pets in the months following Christmas - but they can only take a limited number. Also, the countryside shows an upsetting number of strays, desperately seeking a home and suffering from malnutrition.

When holiday time comes, boarding kennels and fees are faced. What then? "But we have neighbours who will look after them!" Oh yes? Call me a cynic if you wish, but I am a realist and have trodden this path for years.

Go one better as a pet lover and if you know of someone falling into this trap, make them see sense. Make them aware of the flip side of the coin in pet ownership.