The Fourth Estate

I am Not a Toy!

Pheobe Stein

The fresh smell of pine needles, the crinkle of recycled wrapping paper.You sit under the tree in your onesie pajamas, warmly snuggled in a cozy flannel.

Mom and Dad walk in carrying a wrapped box with a big red bow around it.

You hear a muffled bark from inside the box, and your face breaks out in a knowing grin. They place the package in front of you, and you tear open the paper and rip off the lid.

A bundle of fur bounds out, covering your face with slobbery dog kisses.This is the best morning of your life.

Often that perfect morning fades away, and people are left to face the harsh reality that they aren’t well equipped to be dog owners.

More and more, whether for Christ- mas, Hanukkah or any other winter holiday, people give each other one particular outside-the-box gift — dogs.

According to a study done by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), during the duration of the 2015 winter holidays, over 600 dogs were returned.

In a different study, the RSPCA published that three pets were deserted or returned every hour in the days between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27.

Dogs should not be given as presents, especially to people who aren’t equipped or ready to take care of them.

These innocent animals can be returned for a host of reasons, from “we didn’t expect it to be so energetic” to “we thought it was a boy.”

All of these reasons have one thing in common: the families are unaware of the responsibilities of being an owner and are ill-equipped to take care of their animals.

I spoke with Sharon Morris, the president of the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue (SGCRR), on this topic.

The SCGRR fosters dogs and works to nd each dog its permanent home. When I asked her to explain the possible reasons why families return their dogs, she said,“Sometimes folks get puppies and have puppy amnesia — they forget how much work puppies are!”

This issue made itself clear in 1961 after the release of the Disney movie “101 Dalmatians.”

The lm portrays the dogs as

family-friendly, kid-loving pups. De- spite being polite and loyal, in reality, Dalmatians are hyperactive when not exercised enough and can be aggressive when mishandled.

In spite of shelters’ numerous warn- ings against bringing them into a home with children, adoption rates of Dalma- tians around the holidays were through the roof. So were return rates.

When asked about how shelters and rescues prevent people from giving up their dogs, Morris said,“As a rescue, we try very hard to be sure that the dogs we adopt aren’t returned to us — matching the dog to the family — not nding a dog for a family. Everything we do is for the dog.”

She went on to say, “We would ask everyone who is reading your article, never, ever to buy from a pet store.” In her opinion, as a rescue, they are better equipped to nd dogs a perfect home than pet stores because everything they do is for the dogs.

So, during this time after winter break, consider using some of your holiday money to donate or even check out your local shelters to see if you can give one of these dogs a real and loving forever home.

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