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Give A Humane-Themed Gift, Not A Live Pet

by Charlotte LoBuono

This holiday season, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is offering toys and games for children as fun, educational alternatives to the gift of a live animal.

The Society's gift ideas include Fundanas, colorful bandanas printed with games that teach children about animals and their habitats and "Color Me Kind" coloring books which feature lessons about kindness and respect for animals.

Turnips the dog and Humphrey the cat are 10-inch plush puppets that are also characters from the HSUS classroom newspaper, "KIND News."

The National Association for Humane and Environmental Education also has toys and games available through its Youth Education Division on its Web site (www.nahee.org/bite.asp) or by phone: (860) 434-8666.

These games include 'Doggone Crazy!', a colorful board game developed by dog bite prevention educators and dog trainers to teach children about appropriate behavior around dogs.

The game helps players learn to interpret dogs' body language using question cards, game pieces, and baseball-size photos of dogs expressing different emotions through their body postures.

HSUS also suggests giving a gift of pet supplies, such as bowls, collars, toys, a scratching post, or an exercise wheel, to a friend who is considering adopting a pet in the near future. After the celebrations end, if the recipient does decide to go ahead and adopt a pet, he or she will have the necessary supplies already.

Individuals who still want to adopt a pet once the holidays are over are advised to consider the following checklist of essential points first:

1. A pet is a lifetime commitment, and pets can live for 15 to 20 years. Are you prepared to provide food, shelter, veterinary care, love, attention, and other essentials for the duration of the animal's lifespan?

2. Pet food and veterinary care can be expensive. Can you afford them?

3. Pets require time and effort to be properly trained and nurtured. If professional obligations regularly keep you away from home, you should carefully consider your pet choice.

4. Before adopting a pet it is important to verify that you apartment building accepts pets, and that no other household members are allergic.

5. The primary pet caregiver should be closely involved in the adoption process. When visiting animals in a shelter, consider the age and personality of each animal. If children are part of the household, the animal's temperament around kids should also be considered.

6. New pets should always be spayed or neutered to prevent overpopulation and to help them lead longer, healthier lives.

7. Instead of buying an animal from a commercial breeder, adopt a needy pet from an animal shelter. You will be giving a precious gift of life and love to a deserving, innocent pet who, until you turned up, was facing only loneliness and possible death by euthanization.

8. Purebred rescue groups also have adoptable animals in need of new homes. Such groups are run by people with an in-depth knowledge of a specific breed of animal. Those interested in finding a purebred rescue group in their area should contact their local animal shelter, check the classified section of the local paper, or search the Internet. The Companion Animals section of the HSUS Web site can also help people find a local purebred rescue group.

2003 Animal News Center, Inc.

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