Debunking the Adoption Grinch

By Francis Battista

Tis the season for giving gifts, as long as the gift is not a pet … or so the Adoption Grinch would have us believe.

Adopting pets to the public that are intended as gifts, especially during the holidays, is a bad idea – or so we have been told – because they will likely end up like so much used tinsel once the novelty wears off and everyone comes back to reality in early January.

So sayeth the Adoption Grinch, and the Grinch’s dictum has been an animal welfare tradition for a long time now. In fact, not only is this the policy for thousands of rescue groups and shelters, these same groups often go on the PR offensive this time of year, warning about the dangers of pets as gifts.

That’s why, when Mike Arms, the trail-blazing adoption advocate, launched the Home 4 the Holidays end-of-year adoption drive in 1999, he got and still gets a lot of pushback from Grinchites who feel he is playing fast and loose with the safety of homeless pets. The fact that these same pets would likely die if they remain in the shelter system was not persuasive. Nor was the attendant fact that if someone wants to bring home a pet for Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukah or their celebration of the winter solstice, they will buy one from a pet store if they can’t adopt one from a rescue or shelter. As Mike has pointed out in many a presentation, we can’t leave the holidays to the puppy mills.

Now, what if the anecdotal evidence that the Adoption Grinch has been peddling and that you’ve believed to be true could be shown to be false? What if a fact-based study published in the journal “Animals” proved that giving pets as gifts wasn’t so dangerous after all?

Well, that’s exactly what I have for you today.

Our friends over at the ASPCA conducted a survey of people who had received pets as a gift over the last 10 years. The results might surprise you.

There was no correlation between receiving a pet as a gift and a person’s emotional attachment to the pet. In fact, 86% of the pets that had been given as gifts were still in homes, and 96% of people said the fact the pet was a gift had no negative impact on how much they loved the pet.

Take that, Adoption Grinch!

Now, let’s be very clear. Rescue organizations and shelters still need to do their adoption process due diligence. It is also important that the same questions are considered by the adopter to ensure the right match is made. Check out our resource “Choosing the Right Pet for You.”

The fact that 9,000 animals are dying in our shelters every day should be compelling enough to thaw even the Adoption Grinch’s heart and get him on board with holiday adoptions.

Don’t be an Adoption Grinch. Together, we can Save Them All.

P.S. You can read the full ASPCA study by downloading this PDF file, and you can also check out Home 4 the Holidays.

Cat Dog No-Kill 2025

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society