As the festive season approaches, the public is being urged to think carefully before buying or adopting a pet as a Christmas present.
Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has joined with animal welfare charity the Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) to remind the public that getting a pet is a long-term commitment.
Each year, rescue centres see an influx of pets being given up following the Christmas period. In January this year, the USPCA had more than 50 animals at its centre in need of rehoming.
The appeal comes at a time when centres across the UK are seeing high numbers of pets being given up as people struggle with the cost-of-living crisis.
Nora Smith, USPCA chief executive, said: “It may seem counter-intuitive that we do not encourage anyone to buy or adopt a new pet at Christmas given our centre is full of animals in need of a new home.
“However it’s an upsetting reality that in the weeks and months after Christmas we are often asked to take in puppies, kittens and other pets given as presents once the novelty has worn off.
“It’s not just young animals that come to us, older animals can be discarded to make way for new ones.”
People thinking about getting a pet are being asked to think carefully about the responsibility and to wait until after Christmas to allow more time and space to settle a new pet into the home.
Gemma Daly, Northern Ireland’s deputy chief veterinary officer, said: “Pets are often bought at Christmas as presents for loved ones and whilst there is no doubt potential owners are not seeking to do any harm, unfortunately, if careful consideration has not been given to the implications of bringing a new pet into a household, they can end up having to surrender them.
“Different pets have a range of important and diverse needs and it is critical that prospective owners ensure they can provide for an animal’s care and veterinary needs throughout their entire lifetime.
“Advice on how to care for a range of pets is available on NI Direct and prospective owners should first familiarise themselves with the responsibilities that come with being the owner of an animal before making any decisions on how to proceed.”
Image © Shutterstock