Homelessness doesn’t affect only humans. It also affects dogs, cats, and other animals – and the problem is likely to be exacerbated after the festive season, when many animals bought as Christmas gifts are tossed out like tinsel once the novelty wears off.

Shelters are already struggling to cope with the countless abandoned animals, like the “pandemic puppies” bought on a whim during lockdown. Add to that the tidal wave of more dogs, cats, rabbits, and other sentient beings surrendered after the holidays, and many facilities will face the heartbreaking prospect of having to euthanise loving animals because of a lack of space and resources to care for them.

Animal aren’t like other gifts – they can’t be re-gifted or returned. They need a lot of time, money, energy, and devotion for their entire lives, which can be at least a 15-year commitment. Caring for them properly is resource-intensive, and good intentions alone aren’t enough.

Please don’t be tempted to buy an animal or give one as a present this festive season.

If you’re serious about bringing an animal into your home, visit your local shelter in the new year, once the holiday hustle and bustle dies down, and give a second chance to an animal who is desperate to find their forever family. That’s the best present anyone could give.

Natalie Tambini

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)