A Sussex dog rescue charity is appealing to the public to pledge not to buy a puppy this Christmas.
K-9 Angels, which is based in Pulborough, is also urging people to always adopt a dog instead of buying one to give a second chance to rescued dogs in need of forever homes.
Ex-model and Pulborough resident Victoria Featherstone Pearce, who co-founded the charity, said: "We passionately believe that it is always better to opt to adopt rather than shop for a puppy and dogs are not presents and should never be given as presents.
"All over the UK rescue centres full with dogs desperately needing homes. Many dogs are given as presents over the Christmas period and then are dumped at a shelter in January as the ‘present' wasn't properly thought through."
Founded in 2011 the K 9 Angels have rehomed over 800 dogs, spayed 3,000 dogs, and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to build a shelter housing 110 dogs that the charity regularly sends food and medical aid to.
The charity’s top reasons to ‘opt to adopt’ are noted below and hope members of the public will help them spread this ‘vital’ message:
Reason 1: The holidays are busy enough
The holiday season is often very busy for families. In addition to the usual hectic daily routine of school, work and other activities, end-of-year festivities mean even more demands on your time and energy.
Extra shopping, cooking and cleaning chores are usually involved, plus trimming the tree, decorating the house, gift wrapping, parties, overnight guests, trips away from home to visit family and friends.
With all that going on, the last thing most households need is a new puppy or kitten to add to the commotion and stress. Nor does a new four-legged member of the family deserve to be introduced to a brand new, slightly scary environment in the midst of chaos.
A new pet requires a great deal of time and attention from their new family. It's in everyone's best interests to wait for a less busy, exciting time of year to bring home a new dog, cat or other
Reason 2 : Pets should not be surprises
Surprising a loved one with a puppy or kitten on Christmas morning may be a romantic but sadly usually misguided idea.
Yes, the recipient may be extremely excited and happy with a new puppy or kitten, but unless the 'surprise' has actually been well researched and thoroughly planned for, it can be a risky thing to do.
It's hard to resist a warm, furry little bundle under the tree on Christmas morning. However unless the new pet parent is wholly committed to the idea of raising a puppy or kitten, the bloom can come off the rose in a hurry.
In our experience, it's best to let a prospective pet owner, no matter what age, be very engaged every step of the way in selecting a new pet and preparing in advance for the homecoming.
Reason 3: A pet for a child shouldn't be viewed as a new toy
A living creature shouldn't be considered the same kind of 'wow' Christmas gift as, say, a new bike or the latest Xbox console.
Caring for a dog or cat is a big responsibility and far different from getting a new toy that is taken out, played with, and put away again. It's important to impress upon a child the difference between their belongings and their pet, from the very first minute a new dog or cat enters their life.
Even if your youngster is pleading for a pet and you think they are old enough to take on the responsibility, we recommend you keep the 'pet project' separate from the holiday festivities.
Adding a dog or cat to the household is a big undertaking all on its own, so our advice is to plan for it accordingly, and not around the holidays.
Reason 4: Pet stores, backyard breeders, and puppy mills
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, certain disreputable individuals and businesses are bursting at the seams with all the latest popular puppy models.
Most of these babies are shipped in from puppy mills. Some are healthy and many are not. All are bred and born in inhumane, often filthy conditions.
Every time a dog is purchased from an irresponsible breeder or mill operator, it is incentive for those businesses to keep running. So while you may give a puppy mill baby a good home for Christmas, her mother remains back at the mill, having litter after litter until she's too sick or old to reproduce - at which point she's disposed of.
Since some shelters and rescue organisations shut down adoptions this time of year to prevent problems associated with giving pets as Christmas gifts, there is a greater tendency by people who would ordinarily adopt to go the pet store or backyard breeder route. Please don’t be one of them. Wait until the holidays are over and visit your local shelter or rescue organisation.
For more information about the charity, visit www.k-9angels.org