Cute puppies and kittens might be difficult to resist, but Red Collar Rescue is urging residents to carefully consider the practicalities before purchasing a pet for Christmas.
After the initial thrill of welcoming a new ‘fur baby’ to the family subsides, the care and protection of a pet becomes an ongoing responsibility that not all residents can maintain.
Animal refuge centres traditionally report an influx of unwanted pets in the three months after Christmas when children are back at school, parents have returned to work, and the growing animal is home alone while also requiring greater care.
Sharyn Banks, founder of Red Collar Rescue Inc. at Woowoonga, near Biggenden, is familiar with this scenario, having had to deal with its after-effects on more occasions than she would wish.
Sharyn said many of the arrivals at the dogs-only rescue centre were from the Bundaberg Region and confirmed that Christmas was a busy period for the organisation.
“We have had 25 dogs come in this month so far,” Sharyn said.
“Normally, about 95% of the dogs we take in are from the Bundaberg pound, but this month we have had 15 surrendered to us and 10 have been from the pound.”
Sharyn said the increase in the percentage of surrendered dogs was a common occurrence at the year end.
“We find mostly this is because people want to move at the end of the school year and struggle to find rentals that will allow dogs,” she said.
“In saying that, 15 is only the number we have actually taken in. We are now having to turn away surrenders in droves, probably in equal numbers.”
Sharyn said, traditionally, dog dumping and surrendering increased in the lead up to Christmas and in the period between Christmas and New Year.
She said those working at the refuge would also have to brace themselves to meet demand from those seeking to adopt a dog after the festive season.
“Once the new year starts, we will have people who may have dumped their dog before going away for holidays and are now looking for a replacement dog as they are home again,” Sharyn said.
“Or we have the decent people who have put off adopting until after the Christmas rush but still want a few weeks to settle the dog in before their kids go back to school.”
Sharyn said there was a long list of people waiting to adopt small dogs, but large breeds were not embraced at the same rate.
“The vast majority of small dogs that we get in are older and have multiple medical issues, making them unsuitable for many homes,” she said.
“The medium sized dogs seem to be finding homes fairly quickly, however, it is important to match them with the right homes.”
Sharyn said many of the dogs received at Red Collar Rescue were working dog breeds and were not suitable for suburban residences.
“Lots of people want a dog that is happy to be home alone all day and just play with the family for a few hours in the evening before sleeping outside,” she said.
“There are very few dogs that fit that profile and, to be honest, they deserve much more than that.
“We try to find the family that can offer the dog what it needs as well as the other way around.”
Despite having to witness first-hand some of the less savoury aspects of inappropriate dog ownership, Sharyn was encouraged by the growing list of people waiting to adopt their new family member rather than buy a puppy.
“I think people are starting to realise that rescue dogs aren’t broken,” she said.
“They require training and patience, and sometimes have a bit of baggage, but the sharper the thorn, the sweeter the smell.”
Despite her eagerness to find new homes for her much-loved charges, Sharyn said pets should not be bought for others as Christmas presents and people that bought a pet had to realise that they were making a long-term commitment to its care.
“We do not accept applications that are done on behalf of another person without their knowledge,” Sharyn said.
“The person needs to be willing to make a 15-plus year commitment to this animal and we are here to advocate for the dogs, so we operate in their best interests.”
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