TORONTO -- For many children, their dream is to open their eyes on Christmas morning to find a puppy waiting for them under the tree. But both the Toronto and Ontario Humane Societies, as well as regional police, are warning that parents should do their research before buying a pet over the holidays.

Here’s what you should know before you buy a dog named “Rudolph”:

Adopt for your own family, not others

Hannah Sotropa, with the Toronto Humane Society, said the organization does not support giving pets as gifts, but rather encourages families to consider the commitment required before bringing an animal home for the holidays.

“Sometimes we get gifts that don't fit or we simply don't like and windup having to return them. This can sometimes be the case for ‘surprise pets as gifts,’ Sotropa told CTV News Toronto. “Bringing an animal into the home is life changing and everyone in the home should be aware and on board with the changes that need to happen.”


Kallie Milleman, a media relations specialist with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Humane Society, echoed that statement and said that it is important the owner of the pet be a part of the process.

“We do tend to get a lot of adoptions during the holidays,” she said. “That said we don’t encourage giving a pet as a gift. We actually want people to adopt for themselves or their families.”

If you really want to get a friend or family member a pet for the holidays, Milleman suggests letting that person know you can cover the adoption fee—and then let them take point on picking the animal. Or you can host a “secret meet and greet” with the Toronto Humane Society to get the process going.

‘Bringing home a new pet is an adjustment’

There are the obvious questions that need to be answered before a pet is adopted or purchased—who will walk it, feed it, and play with it? Sotropa said “preparation is key” when looking to get a pet.

She said that new pet owners should consider these four things before deciding to bring an animal home for the holidays: budgeting, lifestyle, environment and the longevity of the decision.

“Bringing an animal into your life increases your expenses for sure, at minimum every pet needs food, annual visits to their veterinarian and their pet supplies,” Sotropa said. “Are you prepared for these financial commitments?”

cat waffles

Sotropa suggests “riding the crave wave for a while” and waiting a couple months to see if you still want a pet.

“Life can change in an instant, and unfortunately, we see animals end up at our doors because their families fell into unexpected hardships or changes.”

Understand your region’s bylaws

In a news release issued earlier this week –which asked the question do you ‘want a hippopotamus for Christmas?’—Peel police asked residents to double check the rules before they purchase a more exotic pet over the holidays.

“Who wouldn’t love the face of a child, revealing in awe, an adorable new puppy from the holey box under the tree on Christmas morning? What about the sweet tweet of a beautiful budgie perched in a cage or a bright coloured tank full of salt-water fish for your loved one?” police asked. “Whatever pet you may be considering to brighten up the holidays this year, there are a few things that Peel Regional Police would like you to know first.”

guinea pig santa

Most regions in the Greater Toronto Area have bylaws that require pets to be licenced, leashed, and treated “in a humane manner.” There is also a long list of prohibited animals that are not allowed as pets, including cattle, coyotes, bats, and more exotic animals such as tigers, elephants and kangaroos.

Hippopotamuses are included in the list of prohibited Proboscidea animals.

Holiday campaigns

Both the Toronto and Ontario Humane Society have launched holiday campaigns to encourage people to adopt animals and support their organizations.

The Ontario Humane Society is participating in the national “I Adopt for the Holidays" campaign, an initiative that is “focused on positive, real-life pet adoption stories.”

Milleman said that in December 2018, more than 630 animals were adopted in Ontario.

Throughout the month of December, you can also “fill a shelter animal’s stocking” at the Toronto Humane Society. Each stocking is filled with “festive gifts” for the animals at the shelter.