The festive season has begun! Each year, it seems to begin earlier, and become more intense, with frenzied shopping and a flurry of parties. The pet supply businesses thrive at this time with an array of toys, feeding utensils, pet crates, blankets, mattresses, and edible goodies for our four-legged friends. And, of course, cute little puppies and kittens make wonderful gifts at Christmas.

You have read my articles, on several occasions arguing that there are many so-called dog breeders who are making a business out of churning out cute puppies, not lastly as Christmas gifts. Often, the pups are products of incest, although the so-called breeders insist that the mothers and fathers of the puppies are not related.
Veterinarians and animal shelters often have to treat puppies which have anatomical deformities from incestual breeding (e.g. the top jaw or bottom jaw protruding, bent legs, the “swimmer syndrome”, hernias, and so on). The message therefore is clear: examine your purchase carefully for obvious physical abnormalities.
It is to be noted, however, that some abnormalities are not easily discernible in the young animal. The prospective purchaser trusts the breeder, and cannot be expected to determine whether the puppy (a product of incest in the “puppy mills”) is suffering from a disorder in its immune system. Regrettably, the symptoms exhibit themselves later in the pup’s life, and sequentially, as the animal gets older. Believe me, a lot of anguish is associated with such an evolving scenario, and the veterinarian has to painstakingly decipher and determine the root cause of the problems.
Because of considerations mentioned above, some countries (especially in Europe) place a temporary ban on the sale of puppies and kittens during the Christmas season. In addition, the authorities have found that a noticeable and worrying number of pets — collected impulsively at the last minute (and without much thought) as gifts for children at Christmas — are returned early in the new year. In Guyana and elsewhere, the animal might simply be strayed.
“Banning” anything (even temporarily) is a harsh solution to existential problems, even when the policy is considered noble and necessary. Yet, many countries have seen the need to implement stringent laws/ policies relative to pet sales, not least because the alternative of treating pets as gifts and then abandoning them when the initial enthusiasm wears off is also cruel and unacceptable.
Solutions to this dilemma can be achieved. For example, some of the established animal shelters actually monitor the prospective home/ family before and after the pet is acquired.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the forerunner to our own GSPCA, advocates that the person(s) receiving the pet should be known to be willing, able, and ready to receive and care for a new addition to the family. Clearly, the decision to bring into the family a new member must be a “together decision” – a family decision which must not be taken lightly. After all, the companion animal’s presence in the new home must be associated with the concept of permanence. We do not wish for a “rotating door policy”, by which the companion animal is brought home only to be returned to the shelter/pet shop after the festive season or early in the new year. Also, perhaps we should arrive at the understanding that dogs/ cats – without the full recognition of the responsibility involved – must not be construed as Christmas presents.
We shall, in a subsequent column, be advocating for the acquiring/adoption of pets from the well-established and reputed animal shelters in the new year (2024). Those articles will outline in detail the important considerations and prerequisites to purchasing/ adopting/otherwise acquiring a companion animal.

The tendency to purchase pet costumes/clothes at Christmas is now becoming a norm. My first thought is that the “dressing-up” of the dog is primarily for the owner’s benefit. Lots of mirth is evoked when the costumed pet is presented to visitors.
Well, some dogs love the attention; others don’t. My recommendations on putting on a costume on a companion animal are as follows:
1) It must not impede the animal from performing its natural functions/activities.
2) It should not be a permanent (long term) fixture on the dog, and it must comprise soft and breathable materials.
3) It must not, in any way, be deleterious and inimical to the animal’s wellbeing.
4) Do not use flash photography when taking pictures of the costumed canine.
5) Do not leave the animal unattended, to ensure there’s no suffocation or tangling should the pet decide to gnaw at, or extricate itself from, the costume.

N.B: Cats (being of a different nature to dogs) will more than likely reject and resent any costume with which the caregiver wishes to adorn them. Cats, being independent by nature, would show their dissatisfaction with the costume, and rip it off in short order. Dogs may tolerate the costume, sometimes even if it is causing discomfort.