Toys, Not Animals, Make Good Holiday Gifts

Posted by William Rivas-Rivas, ALDF Development Director on December 21, 2011

This year I’ll be celebrating the holidays in the San Francisco Bay area. I really look forward to the end of year–the amazing vegan dinner parties with friends and family, the über Secret Santa gift exchange at work, and all of the colorful decorations and sparkling holiday lights in my neighborhood.

I’ll miss my dear friends that I left behind in Washington, DC, my home for the last six years. I’ll also miss the winter snow which I became accustomed to after a decade of living on the East Coast.

Thankfully, many of my East Coast friends are lining up to come visit me out west because of the idea of leaving behind frigid temperatures in exchange for the year-round California sunshine is quite the draw.

And let’s be honest here…they are also really excited to come visit me because they want to meet Sophie, the newest addition to my family.

Sophie and William
Sophie and me.

Sophie is a beautiful 12 week-old grey kitten whose introduction to the world was less than ideal. Sophie was found behind my friend and coworker April’s house in the woods of Northern California.

Sophie was about nine days old, underweight, low body temperature, not taking to the bottle, and not least of all, with a small puncture wound in her neck.

April and her husband Jason brought Sophie in from the cold and damp woods. They gave her a home, took her to the veterinary clinic, got her on antibiotics, and fed her every few hours with a syringe. Newborn kittens need up to 10 feedings in a 24 hour period. No doubt an exhausting and sleep depriving venture.

Sophie’s milk mustache.

It’s important to mention that while April and Jason were bringing infant Sophie back to health, they were also caring for Tashi, another newborn kitten that was found just the day before all alone in a tree stump near their house. Tashi, like Sophie, was very hungry and needed kitten formula. She also needed to be treated for the hundreds of fleas on her.

April and Jason are Sophie and Tashi’s heroes. They’re also my heroes. When I celebrate the holidays this year and reflect on what I’m thankful for, they’re at the top of my list.

Jason and April gave me the best holiday “gift” I could ever ask for–the chance to adopt Sophie. April knew that I was looking to adopt another cat and let me know that as soon as Sophie was healthy, I could adopt her.

Sophie today.

Adopting a second cat was something that I thoughtfully considered for about two years. It’s a huge decision. These young animals are not toys. To adopt a young animal (or an animal of any age for that matter), is an important and life-altering decision. I’ll never forget when I adopted my first cat, Sumalee. I was asked, “Are you prepared to take care of her for the next 18 years of your life?” That question was sobering moment from my drunken stupor of kitten cuteness.

I’m sure you all have seen a TV commercial or movie with a young child rushing downstairs to open the ribbon-covered box that shakes; then out comes the super-adorable puppy that licks the child’s face. What the TV commercial or movie does not show you is the time and money involved in proper veterinary care, food, pet supplies, and house training.

It also doesn’t show you when the animal is turned over to the over-burdened animal shelter that is filled beyond capacity with homeless animals that were once "pets" gifted to them for the holidays. Even worse, some animals are abandoned on the side of the road.

The fact is that animals do not make good gifts because these animals are not toys–they are living beings that require a lifetime of constant care, support, love, and attention. They should never be an impulse purchase! Instead, please consider the decision very carefully and once you’re certain that you have the time, money, and love to commit to an animal, visit your local humane society, animal shelter, or rescue group. Humane societies, shelters, and rescue groups have a wide variety of animals up for adoption–including purebred animals–and can also advise you on your pet adoption.

Please never buy an animal from a breeder or a pet store that likely get their animals from a puppy or kitten mill! These animal factories put profit above animal welfare, producing cats and dogs with little regard for their health or genetic quality.

ALDF recently sued Barkworks, a Southern California pet store chain, claiming the stores repeatedly engage in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they source their puppies from abusive “puppy mills.” The lawsuit claims the stores have a demonstrated pattern of misleading customers about where their puppies come from.

With the assistance of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, municipalities from coast to coast are exploring ways to prohibit the sale of dogs and cats obtained from large-scale commercial breeding operations. A number of states and communities, including West Hollywood, California; South Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; and Hermosa Beach, California; and Lake Worth, Florida, have banned the sale of puppies in pet stores. In addition to LA, other big jurisdictions are also considering similar bans, including Irvine, California; San Francisco, and Suffolk County, New York.

If you’re planning on giving an animal companion to a loved one this holiday season, please consider very carefully how it will impact your loved one’s life as well as the animal’s life.

Adopting Sophie is a decision that has changed my life forever. It’s been five weeks and I’m so in love with her. I honestly have forgotten what life was like before this two pound furry bundle of energy entered my life. Sure, I’m not getting much sleep right now and I risk a stealth kitten attack at every move. (Sophie’s attacks usually start from under the couch, behind my computer monitor, and very recently from underneath the bed covers. I have to be vigilant at all times and I love it!)

Happy holidays!


2 thoughts on “Toys, Not Animals, Make Good Holiday Gifts

  1. Pat Duncan says:

    William… You’re such a mush. God bless you.. Sophie is so small next to the big hands to protect her.. May you all have a blessed Christmas & a Happy New Year.

    “Don’t Breed Or Buy~ Adopt From A Shelter Or A Rescue Group” Author Unknown.

  2. Reagan says:

    Bravo! Love the sentiments, the message, and love that little Sophie!

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