Repeat after me. "I will never give an animal as a holiday gift." Good. Every humane organization, animal rescue group, reputable breeder, pet-related organization and veterinarian will tell you that giving pets as gifts is a disaster of an idea. Animals require a lifetime commitment. Dogs and cats can live to be 15-years-old. Would you make any other fifteen-year commitment for someone else? Most reputable breeders and many humane organizations refuse to place pets, especially "gift pets," during the holidays. Experts agree, when people give pets as holiday gifts, the pet pays an awful price. Why are pets a poor gift choice? Your sister arrives on your doorstep with a gift puppy. She remembers the soft coos you gave the last time you saw one. She has tried (and failed) to be thoughtful. Within an hour, the puppy has sunk its sharp teeth into your 6-year-old who screams and runs to her room. The puppy pees and vomits, then swallows a holiday ornament. While you look for the number of the emergency veterinary clinic, the puppy eats a poinsettia, a poisonous plant. Moving to a new home stresses animals. Puppies and even adult dogs need quiet, schedules, special diets and lots of time and attention as they adjust. When was the last time you had this on a regular day, much less a holiday? If your children beg for a holiday pet, tell them that new animals do better when they join families in the spring and summer. If they still want one then, you'll be happy to oblige. In the meantime, they can help care for the neighbors' cats and dogs. Matching a pet with a family takes the family's commitment, not only to the breed or type of pet, but also with the characteristics of an individual animal. Without the family making this decision together, the pet is not a part of the family. That pet, after an unhappy start, may find an uncertain future at shelter. What to give instead If you think that a friend or family member wants a pet, give a book about pet care or training, or how to select the right pet. Or consider a gift certificate for a local pet store. Then they get to choose their new best friend. If they decide against a pet, they can donate the certificate to their local animal welfare organization. You could give a child a subscription to "Dogs for Kids," a terrific magazine full of stories they'll love. Pets serve us in so many ways. For the holidays, honor them by thinking ahead. Share Your Stories Please share your thoughts about pets given as holiday gifts. I'd love to hear from you, even if you and I don't agree. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Pet Gifts" as the subject line.