I had a rather shocking encounter with a relative over Christmas this year that really got me thinking.
Being that I've been an employee of HAWS for more than a dozen years, my family and friends long ago got used to my pro-animal welfare mantras and viewpoint. What a surprise, then, when one of them told me that they "were worried I was going to bring the kids a dog as a present this Christmas."
I think my jaw is still on the floor. Dumbfounded. Speechless.
HAWS, along with most rescues, strongly discourages the giving of pets as gifts for any occasion. In fact, it is an item on our application and is discussed during adoption counseling. A pet is a life that requires a lifetime commitment - it isn't a token, or a plaything to get bored with, or a trendy accessory - too often that is the way a gift is viewed.
Personally I believe very much in the importance of the no-pets-as-gifts policy, because I have seen first hand the number of animals that have been surrendered to HAWS because they were unwanted gifts. (If a person wants a pet, they should be part of the process of choosing that pet - their responsibility, their choice. Its only fair. Besides, who wants someone else picking their best friend for them? Chemistry is important in human-pet relationships, too.)
Not to mention, an employee of HAWS could very well be in jeopardy of losing their job if they participated in the giving of a pet as a gift. (See #2 and the number of surrenders...that is not a good way to ensure job security.)
Doing my best not to get on people's nerves or be preachy, maybe I haven't talked about this concept, let alone other animal welfare issues, strongly enough? Maybe it is okay to turn more moments with family and friends into "teaching moments."
I encourage everyone to have discussions - with family, friends, co-workers - about animal welfare issues. Working together we can all help HAWS achieve our goal for 2011 and beyond: using our reach as a humane society to create a whole Society that is Humane!
By the way - even tho the "giving season" is over, the need is not. We need you to Support the HAWS Cause the whole year through - with supply donations, monetary contributions, your time and talents.... Please stop by the shelter and join us!