For better or for worse, the holidays often bring new pets into our households. Your addition may have been well-planned and thoughtfully implemented, which is always the recommended course. However, many of these new pets end up in our homes either as gifts or as our own impulsive purchases or adoptions.

While I never recommend giving a pet as an unexpected gift, it happens. And when it does, it often places a pet into a household where it may not be all that welcome. As a result, that pet often ends up surrendered to a shelter or rescue shortly after the holidays conclude.

Impulsive purchases are a bit different but the result is often the same. When the addition of a pet is unplanned, new pet owners may find themselves in a position where they are financially or physically unable to care for the new pet. Or they may simply have second thoughts about having the pet in the household.

Whatever the reason, the period immediately following the holidays unfortunately finds a lot of puppies, kittens, dogs, cats and other pets being surrendered to shelters and rescues. For some shelters and rescues, this happens less frequently than for others. Shelters and rescues that screen adopters carefully and prohibit the adoption of a pet as a gift for someone else are probably less likely to see as many returns, I should think (though I admit I have no statistics or studies to back up this thought). However, not all shelters have the luxury of being so discerning.

What happens when a pet is returned to a shelter or surrendered to a rescue after the holidays? That animal, which may have already had time to begin to bond with its new family, is now placed back into a cage. He certainly does not understand what he did to deserve to be abandoned again. He does not understand that his "new people" did not plan adequately for him or never wanted him to begin with. For that animal, the situation becomes stressful, depressing, and frightening.

Can these animals be re-homed a second time? Yes, many of them will adjust to another home, which hopefully will be better prepared for the arrival of the new pet. Some of these animals may still need training, especially in the case of young or adolescent puppies, which may not have received adequate house training guidance and/or socialization in their previous, short-lived home. But they can still make good pets for someone willing to take the time.

Many of these pets will become loving and loyal companions. That is assuming, though, that a new home can be located. Unfortunately, that is often easier said than done, and too many pets end up meeting an unpleasant end when there are no new homes for them.

What is the moral of the story? If you did not adopt a pet this holiday season, hopefully you already know that the holidays are perhaps not the best time of year to adopt a new pet and, likewise, hopefully you will never make the mistake of adopting a pet you are not prepared to care for.

If you did adopt a pet, for yourself or for someone else, and now find yourself in a position where surrendering that pet is inevitable, accept that you made a serious mistake in judgment. Learn from that mistake and vow never to repeat it. After all, it is not really you that suffers for this transgression. It is the pet that pays the ultimate price!

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Mat Hayward / via Shutterstock