dog and cat at christmasDecember 30, 2013, VANCOUVER – Every year many animal companions, and often their human guardians, suffer during the holidays from situations that could have been easily prevented says The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).


Pets Aren't Presents!

“While many people know not to give pets as presents, this still occurs on a regular basis often with unintended results,” warns Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. “Pets can live anywhere from 14 to 20 years and in all fairness this should be the family and not someone else’s decision. In some cases, families are so unprepared for the new arrival that they turn the animal over to a local pound where they join other animals waiting for a home. A better idea is to make up your own gift certificate that reads: “Good for the adoption of a new family member” and in the New Year, visit your local humane society, shelter, SPCA or rescue group with the family and let them chose their new pet,” says Hickey.

According to Hickey, another reason not to give pets as gifts is because the holidays can be hectic, even stressful, times. "Welcoming a new dog or cat into the family requires considerable time and patience, both of which are in short supply during the holidays. It is better to wait until the family can give all of the attention, guidance and love that an adopted four-legged family member needs."

Pet-Proofing the Home

Many families unknowingly decorate their homes with potentially harmful items. People with pets should inspect their home to ensure that animals, and young children, aren't exposed to any hazards.

"Two dangerous items that are often used more during the holidays are electrical cords and candles," warns Michael O'Sullivan, HSC Executive Director. "Ensure that pets are kept safe from electrical cords and never leave animals unattended where there are candles. It is often safer to not use candles at all or to make them inaccessible to pets."

According to O'Sullivan the Christmas tree can also cause problems. "Dogs can knock over the Christmas tree while cats may try to climb the branches so it is a good idea to safely secure trees in homes with pets," recommends O'Sullivan. "Don't use tinsel, ribbon, liquid bubbling lights or decorations made of food or which can break into tiny pieces as they can cause a variety of problems. Animals should be kept away from the tree's reservoir and tree preservatives should not be used in the water."

Many "human foods" are also hazardous, even lethal, to animals. Chocolate and onions are both toxic to animals and can result in death. Bones should be avoided – especially brittle ones such as turkey and chicken bones which can splinter and lodge in an animal's throat or intestines.

The Humane Society of Canada also wants people with pets to be aware that many of their festive plants could be toxic to animals. "Some plants have a low toxicity while others are very toxic and can result in death," warns Hickey. A partial list of toxic "Christmas plants" includes: mistletoe, Christmas rose, Christmas cactus, holly, ivy, lily, poinsettia, star of Bethlehem, yew, jequirity bean, Jerusalem cherry and hibiscus.

Including Pets in the Fun

"Pets get excited during the holidays too," says O'Sullivan whose family includes a houseful of dogs and cats. "By including them in the fun and giving them safe gifts you are less likely to overlook your 'best friends' during this exciting, hectic time. And by purchasing gifts such as a first aid kit or catnip treats from the HSC Online Adventure Store you will be helping animals in need as well."

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment.

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