By Ms. Stefanie Gardin (IMCOM)December 16, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Here's the Christmas shopping list: Get gift certificate from a department store: check.
Get accessories from phone store: check.
Get Dalmatian puppy from pet store: whoa.
The holidays can be a tempting time to get someone an adorable puppy or kitten for Christmas; however, Army veterinarians are urging prospective pet owners and pet givers to take a page from Santa's book and check twice - or rather think twice, before making any decisions.
Capt. Tiffany Kimbrell, branch chief, Schofield Barracks Veterinary Services, holds one wish close to her heart this holiday season: for more people to understand the responsibilities of having a pet.
As someone who's experienced the joys and challenges of having a pet, Kimbrell encourages prospective pet owners and pet givers to ask the following questions: Are you and a pet the right fit' Can you afford a pet' Do you have the time'
Ask anyone who's had a pet, and they'll tell you, pets are like people. Animals have their own personalities and behaviors. A pet can make you smile on your worst days, or bring you to a boiling point with one action. What keeps the relationship going is the human-animal bond.
"The human-animal bond is the main thing; it's number one," Kimbrell said. "If a person doesn't have that bond with the pet, he or she is not going to treat the animal well."
Before adopting, buying or giving a pet, Kimbrell suggests spending time with the animal to make sure the animal really is the right fit. She visited an adoption facility three times before picking out her own cat, which, she jokingly said, really picked her, by jumping on her lap each visit.
"It's super important to spend time with an animal before taking it home," Kimbrell said. "You won't get that trial or test if you get someone a surprise pet for Christmas."
Sure, it's cute the way that little bundle of fur snuggles up to you, but what about when the bills start to roll in' Having a pet is rewarding, but also expensive.
The yearly cost for vet visits (vaccinations and heartworm and flea prevention) is approximately $357 for a medium-sized dog at a military veterinary treatment facility. Dental cleanings, which are due around every four years, cost approximately $100. Owners can expect to pay double these prices at off-post veterinary facilities.
Of course, don't forget the added costs of food, gear, toys, training, pet-sitting and moving expenses.
"Shipping my cat (to Hawaii) was like $700," Kimbrell said. "The expense of a pet - I don't think people realize when they get one - it's a lot."
Most Christmas presents can be put aside if other pressing matters come up, but a dog with a full bladder may not wait until the end of that holiday dinner party to go to the bathroom.
Pets are a commitment, and prospective pet owners should be ready to commit their time, on a daily basis, for the long haul. Service members should also consider deployments.
"What are you going to do if you deploy' There really aren't a lot of good options out there," Kimbrell said, adding that a backup plan is a necessity.
Pet abandonment is not an option and is illegal.
Overall, expect to spend many hours training, exercising and caring for pets. For example, puppy owners will need to let the puppy out every few hours.
"A lot of people just don't know a pet is going to take that (much time)," she said. "If you give them a puppy around Christmas, and family or friends are visiting, it can get really crazy."
Pet Factors to Consider
In addition to time and financial commitments, military families acquiring pets should consider a host of other factors about the pet:
-Its exercise needs
-Their living environment
-Their housing rules
-Military, local and state regulations
-Its pre-existing health conditions
-Is it from a reputable source