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One of nine 2-week-old puppies that came to the shelter after their mother was hit by a car. They're too young to adopt and are now in foster care.
One of nine 2-week-old puppies that came to the shelter after their mother was hit by a car. They're too young to adopt and are now in foster care.

Some shelter workers discourage giving pets for Christmas

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In these last few days before Christmas, adoptions are up at North Country animal shelters. It's a hectic time as kittens and puppies are in high demand.

Some shelter workers fear they'll see these same animals come back in a few months when they're too big or too much to handle. Others are actively discouraging people from giving pets as gifts. Jonathan Brown reports.

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One of many cats eager for adoption at the Potsdam Humane Society.

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As any shelter worker will tell you, almost everybody looking for a pet this time of year has to have a kitten or puppy.

For Kathy Brainard at the Potsdam Humane Society, that's a problem:

"We ran out of kittens last week. And people have called here and they're just angry because we don't have any little, tiny kittens."

She has plenty of adult cats. So many, in fact, the shelter is waiving all adoption fees. So, anyone who meets the criteria to take an animal home can have a cat--or two--free of charge. Brainard says a few people have taken her up on the offer, but many say they want a younger pet:

And it's not that they're old - they're less than a year old, a lot of these animals. But they're not so big they can fit under the tree with a little ribbon around it.

"That's the hard part at Xmas, the cats and dogs get overlooked completely for the kittens and the puppies. Even with giving the cats away, I'm having to beg people to take them."

Lillian Cassidy is having a better time finding adopters at the Adirondack Humane Society in Plattsburgh:

"We had five cats go home from here on Saturday. That's great. It is. It's awesome. We have 130, so... it's incredibly good."

Cassidy wants it to remain good, meaning a life-long adoption. She's seen too many animals come back. A common scenario involves renters who don't have a landlord's permission. She says it's the animal that suffers, because when the kitten comes back, it's not a kitten anymore:

"If a landlord doesn't want a cat to be in the house that we adopted out in December the kitten ends up coming back in June then they've lost that cute little time that people are looking for."

So, the Adirondack Humane Society has developed a long list of criteria for people who want a pet. And, like many shelters, they now confirm adopters own their home. If not, a shelter worker will talk with the landlord and make sure the adopter has permission to have a pet.

The Jefferson County SPCA takes a different approach. Director Linda Miles tells potential adopters to wait:

"It's just a terrible time. You have gifts around and Christmas trees and different types of plants that normally you wouldn't have."

Miles also tells eager pet givers to think about both the recipient and the animal.

"Your choice might be far from what they really want. And to me it's a personal thing. The person wants to be able to interact with that pet, know the pet is going to interact with them."

She says--instead of putting a pet under the tree--give a gift certificate. This covers the cost of adoption and gives people the chance to come into the shelter and meet the cat or dog that's right for them.

Like other shelter workers, Miles says she's always happy to place a pet in a loving home:

"If you're a person that's going to be alone during the holidays or you have the empty-nest syndrome and just want a pet around, that's a different story."

For these people, she says, this can be a good time to add a four-legged member to the family... and have a furry Christmas.

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