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When considering adopting a pet as a gift this holiday season, animal shelter officials urge people to remember one thing: It’s a long-term commitment.

There is a “noticeable increase” in pet adoptions from the Humane Society of Calvert County during the holiday season, said humane society public relations coordinator Kirstyn Northrop-Cobb, with the largest increase being in puppy adoptions.

After the holiday season, January and February are the busiest months for animal returns to the humane society, she said.

“It’s great to bring home a puppy … but people want to go out and get this puppy, and it’s cute and tiny, but the puppy inevitably grows,” she said.

New puppies often are not house trained and “they chew up stuff,” Northrop-Cobb said. She said people need to remember that puppies need to be house trained and need to be paid a lot of attention.

To prepare for bringing a new animal home, Northrop-Cobb said she recommends buying “the basics,” including food, a leash, a collar and toys, but what she recommends “more so than just preparing to bring it home is the fact that it’s not a right-now gift.”

“This is a gift that will at least last for about 13 years,” she said. “The main thing is preparing for the fact that this is a long-term commitment and not just a spur-of-the-moment gift.”

Northrop-Cobb said something else people need to keep in mind is that there will be “added expenses” due to necessary veterinary care “down the road.”

For those interested in adopting an animal this holiday season, Northrop-Cobb recommended fostering an animal first.

“If you foster an animal, you can get a good feel for whether or not you want to actually adopt a pet,” she said.

The Calvert Animal Welfare League does not adopt animals as gifts, said canine manager Barbara Scanlan, and will only allow an adoption to be processed if everyone in the family meets the animal first.

Scanlan said over the years, she has seen an increase in the number of people wanting puppies or dogs during the holiday season. For families looking to adopt a dog close to Christmas, Scanlan said she asks them if there will be family holiday gatherings that may have a lot of noise “because something like that can be traumatic to a new dog.” She said if the family looking to adopt the dog is hosting a party, the adoption will be processed after the holidays.

CAWL tries to minimize the number of animal returns by making sure the animal is being matched with the right family, Scanlan said, by asking questions prior to when an application for adoption is submitted. Although returns to CAWL are minimal, Scanlan said the most common reason for returning an animal is because people don’t know what they’re getting into.

“They get a puppy and they’re like, ‘Wow, this is more work than I thought,’” she said.

Before going through with an adoption, Scanlan said people should remember they are making a lasting commitment.

“This is a lifetime commitment,” she said, adding that researching the desired breed of dog will aid in the decision-making process for adoptions. “It’s not a toy. It’s a living thing.”

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com