dog 1Pets bring warmth and joy to any home so it’s no surprise that some people choose to give a new puppy or kitten as a holiday gift. And really, what’s more endearing than a furry baby with a bright red ribbon under the Christmas tree? Gifting an animal as a holiday gift, however, can backfire if a variety of precautions are not taken beforehand.

Animal welfare groups are split on the idea: The Humane Society cautions against holiday adoptions while the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has taken the position that the practice is fine if precautions are followed.

Dr. Emily Weiss, ASPCA’s vice president of shelter research and development, says the holidays are an ideal time to adopt a pet “because many of us have time off, and we are around and focused on home and family.”

If you plan on gifting a new pet to a loved one this holiday season, the Lynnwood, Wash.-based animal welfare group PAWS recommends keeping a few important things in mind. The first and most obvious question: Is that family or individual ready to take on a pet? Some individuals don’t like animals, don’t want a pet at all, or maybe they simply don’t want a pet at this point in time.

The second thing you’ll want to consider are long-term expenses. Even though the person who receives a pet doesn’t pay up front, they should be ready to take on a long-term commitment in terms of time and money. These include food costs, bedding and toys, grooming, veterinary care, time to exercise, boarding and daycare and obedience training.

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Lastly, consider making sure the animal is the right fit for the person who will be adopting it. A successful adoption depends on finding the right animal for the right human. A poor fit can lead to the animal being neglected or passed off to a shelter or another home, which is hard on the pet. For those who are ready, you’ll want to let them pick the pet themselves so they get one that’s right for them.

Another option might be purchasing a gift certificate for your loved one to cover the cost of adoption at a shelter when they are ready. You could even pair the certificate with accessories they’ll need for adoption such as a collar, leash, treats, food, etc.

If you are certain that gifting a pet this holiday is a good choice, following these steps can help ensure happiness for your loved ones and their new furry friend.