There is nothing cuter than a cuddly puppy or kitten under the tree on Christmas morning, perhaps with a holiday bow attached to its collar. And while that scenario makes a great holiday card illustration, the American Humane Association cautions that the days that follow can often result in a lonely pet facing an uncertain future at the local animal shelter.

“There are millions of animals at local shelters that need homes. However, giving a pet as a surprise gift is never a good idea, especially during the holidays,” says Marie Belew Wheatley, American Humane president and CEO. “The holidays are stressful for everyone, including animals. By surprising people with a pet, you are assuming they have the financial, emotional and time resources necessary to care for an animal, as well as the desire to care for a living being for the long term.”

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