How To

Should You Give a Pet As a Holiday Gift?

photo: a4gpa

There’s nothing better than being greeted by a puppy on a holiday morning — or looking at your child’s overjoyed reaction as they receive a furry holiday gift.

That is, until you contemplate the first vet bill and start tabulating the cost of feeding, training, bedding and toys. According to estimates from the  American Society of Preventing Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) , the first year of owning a small dog can add up to more than $1,300; and $1,800 for a large dog. While costs can vary based on whether you spay or neuter the pooch, purchase health insurance, and grooming costs, a furry gift can end up quite expensive for the recipient.

Before you give someone a pet, have a thorough discussion of the full costs involved and who’s going to cover them. Include as many additional factors in your chat as possible, such as larger apartment deposits, basic care, pet sitting and health care costs. Here are some suggestions:

Apartment Deposits and Moving

If you are giving a pet to a renter, find out if their building allows pets. Once that question is settled, the expense check begins. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) spokesperson Michael San Filippo recommends finding answers to the following questions:

1. Does the potential new puppy parent have a roommate that will accept a dog in the house? If the roommate isn’t pet friendly, your gift could cost your friend half the rent.

2. Is your giftee going to be moving in the next year or two? The new place may not accept pets or could come with a higher deposit.

3. How much is the pet deposit? Is it refundable upon moving, and is there pet rent? The pet deposit could be several hundred dollars.  Pet rent is generally a monthly amount for having a pet in an apartment. If charged, it could add $10 on up to monthly bills.

Take Your Friend Shopping and Calculate Basic Expenses by Breed

“Don’t give a surprise pet.” says San Filippo. Your friend may talk about wanting a dog, but that’s different than actually owning one. Arrange a meet and greet, whether it’s with a breeder or a shelter. Then calculate expenses for that specific pet breed. For instance, a German Sheppard will require more food than a Miniature Schnauzer. But a Miniature Schnauzer will require haircuts because its fur grows rather than sheds. You can calculate food costs by going to the pet store and looking at a bag of dog food you’re likely to buy for your pet. It will say what the serving size is for the size of pet you want. For instance, it could say two cups for the miniature Schnauzer and seven for the German Sheppard. Choose a pet store that also offers grooming goods. That way you can price leashes, food, kennels, dog beds, food bowls, and grooming all in the same visit.

Ongoing Health Care

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average bill per visit in 2007 (the latest available) was $135. THE AMVA recommends two visits per year.  However, this is only for basic care. Talk to a local vet about other costs generally required for the breed you are considering for your giftee. Buying pet insurance for a year as part of your gift can insure lower costs at least during the first year of ownership. When you compare policies, always check on both exempt and covered illnesses and deductible amounts.

Doggie Daycare

While not everyone sends their dog to a doggie daycare center, if your potential puppy parent travels regularly, budgeting for daycare or an occasional pet sitter is a must. According to costhelper.com, doggie care typically ranges between $12 and $38 for a work day visit. If you’re feeling especially generous, you could include a gift certificate for doggie daycare. (And if this adds too much onto the cost of your gift, think about adopting from a shelter or rescue group rather than purchasing a pet from a breeder or rescue group.)

Gift for a Lifetime

“Thanks to improved veterinary care, dogs are living longer than ever. Depending on the breed, dogs can be expected to live eight to 18 years, if not longer,” says San Filippo.”While your potential puppy owner might be in a position now to house and care for a pet, do you know where they’ll be in three years? Is it possible they will be moving somewhere that doesn’t allow dogs, or moving in with roommates or a spouse that is allergic to pets?”

If you give someone a pup, make sure they are ready for up to 20 years of responsibility, expenses, as well as the fun of a never-fail workout partner and all those doggie kisses.

Reyna Gobel is a freelance journalist who specializes in financial fitness. She is also the author of Graduation Debt: How To Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life.