In Brief

Should animal shelters ban Christmas adoptions?

German pet rescue centres take a stand over pets as presents

It’s not uncommon for children to beg their parents to get them a puppy for Christmas – but animal shelters in Germany are urging families to rethink giving pets as presents.

Animal shelters in major cities including Bremen, Hanover and Berlin, home to Europe’s largest pet rescue centre, have announced a temporary ban on adoptions over the Christmas and New Year period.

Arvid Possekel, from the Hanover Animal Shelter, told German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle that the ban was being introduced “so that animals do not end up under the Christmas tree”.

“Ideally they become members of the family and you just don't give family members as presents,” he said.

Gabriele Schwaab of Bremen Animal Shelter said that the problem was specifically ill thought-out “impulse” adoptions over the festive season, which can have tragic consequences if the recipient is unwilling to take on the responsibilities of pet ownership.

“It's sadly the case that the first animals are abandoned even on Christmas Eve,” Schwaab told Deutsche Welle. “If you really want to gift someone an animal, then you can go to the shelter before the holidays, or in January, but it does not need to be two days before Christmas.”

“Regional news outlets are reporting similar decisions in other towns and cities, including dozens of shelters in a united decision in Lower Saxony,” the BBC reports.

Dieter Ruhnke from the State Animal Protection Association of Lower Saxony said animals were “absolutely unsuitable” as a surprise Christmas present.

The new policy will go into effect next week. Those who wish to adopt an animal can still go through the application process, but they will have to wait until January to pick up their new companion.

In the UK, there are currently no restrictions around animal adoptions over the festive period. However, the charity Dogs Trust – which coined the now-familiar slogan “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas – cautioned against the practice.

“Once the initial Christmas sparkle has worn off and people realise the huge commitment it takes to own a dog, they come into our care. It’s heartbreaking for us to see when it could so easily have been prevented,” said Dogs Trust operations manager Andy Clowes.

Last Christmas, the charity received 4,827 calls between Boxing Day and the end of January from people looked to hand over their unwanted dogs, the Yorkshire Post reports.

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