AS WE advance inexorably towards Christmas, I wonder how many parents and families are tempted to give pets as pressies?

I have encountered perfectly sane people who turn up for SPCA adoption days in Wellington, leading up to Christmas, and who have really thought about the decision to have an animal for life.

But, as a guy whose family collectively has two dogs and two cats, you have to be really sure about taking on an animal. I needed some huge convincing. You've got to be happy to have a cat sitting on your chest (or face), demanding to be fed at 2am. You've got to be happy about weekends and holidays being largely at home because you've got dogs to look after.

The argument frequently comes up, particularly with dogs, over whether it's the owners who need a licence, not a dog.


I have a lot of sympathy with that concept, as do many dog trainers. While some dogs are, by nature, problematic, it's far outweighed by an owner deficient of anything that might fall under the definition of "well-adjusted".

Put a dog with a less-than-outstanding member of the community and it's a combination that will probably fall over in time. And then you've got a bewildered and rather sad animal at the vet, unaware that its life is over.

I heard Lloyd Warren, manager at Masterton SPCA, on the radio yesterday morning stressing the "pet for life" message. Naturally Mr Warren would be delighted to see his animals go to good homes this Christmas, but no one should ever go to the SPCA thinking they should take an animal just to help out the SPCA.

Another thought to do away with is the idea of "rescuing" an animal from the SPCA. The SPCA does a great job and will function just fine, regardless of anyone developing a saviour complex.

You've got to be happy with the idea of having a pet for its life, but your pet has got to be happy about it too. Dogs, especially, come happy as standard. The only person to ruin that happiness is the owner.