Saturday, June 15, 2024

Thinking of buying an animal for Christmas? RescueConnect wants you to think twice

In 2016, New Hanover County euthanized 44 percent of animals taken in at its animal shelter. Brunswick County euthanized 44 percent and Pender County euthanized 35 percent.

Ava Werstlein, co-founder of Rescue Connect, says animal shelters in the Cape Fear Region see a spike of animals in the shelters after Christmas and encourages people to wait to adopt until after the holidays have passed. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY MICHAEL CLINE)
Ava Werstlein, co-founder of RescueConnect, says animal shelters in the Cape Fear Region see a spike of animals in the shelters after Christmas and encourages people to wait to adopt until after the holidays have passed. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY MICHAEL CLINE)

WILMINGTON—The widely-shared dream of a puppy under the Christmas tree may not be a humane gift.

As well-intentioned as potential pet-owners may be, Ava Werstlein, co-founder of non-profit RescueConnect, wants people to think twice before wrapping the bow on a new furry friend this holiday season.

“What we do see sadly is a big spike of animals that get dumped at the shelters right after Christmas,” Werstlein said.

Werstlein describes the idea of pets as presents as a “short-term approach” to pet ownership.

“Families want this moment to capture right after Christmas,” she said.

After the magic of the moment has worn off, reality settles in; the training, the vet bills, the waste, the chewed up personal belongings. 

“Instead of a puppy under the tree, I would recommend a box with a leash and a collar,” Werstlein said.

While Rescue Connect specializes in coupling people with rescued animals all year, during the holidays, it intentionally tries to put on the brakes.

“We limit options this time of ear because we want people to go into the mindset that adoption is forever,” Werstlein said. 

Adopt, don’t shop

In 2016, 44 percent of animals taken in by the New Hanover County Animal Shelter were euthanized. Brunswick County also euthanized 44 percent of animals taken in last year, while Pender euthanized 35 percent.

“The shelters are brimming with dogs,” Werstlein said. Organizations like RescueConnect analyze local euthanasia data as means of encouraging people to adopt area animals that are at risk of death as opposed to seeking out pet breeders. 

“Breeders are in it for the money at the expense of the animal, adoption centers are in it for the well-being of the animal,” Werstlein said.

After the magic of the moment has worn off, reality settles in; the training, the vet bills, the waste, the chewed up personal belongings.

During the holidays, while RescueConnect is taking extra steps to ensure the safety and longevity of a pet and owner relationship, Werstlein says breeders are working to make the process as easy as possible to adopt.

“Breeders are very customer focused,” she said. “They strategically plan litters so that puppies will be able to go home this time of year.”

Additional adoption organizations in the Cape Fear Region include:

  • Paws Place, a rescue, no-kill, non-profit center in Winnabow.
  • Adopt an Angel, a non-profit foster network that rescues animals at risk of euthanasia.
  • Fix A Friend, a spay and neuter clinic started by Adopt an Angel whose ultimate mission is to end widespread animal euthanasia.

Holiday haze

Although the rescue organization asks people to hold off until after the holidays, it is still possible to adopt in time for Christmas if the potential owner agrees to take on the full responsibility of pet ownership.

“I would never discourage someone from going to a shelter and adopting a dog,” Werstlein said. “The reality is we see a lot of people get into it without understanding the commitment.”

Werstlein hopes that a symbolic gift in place of the actual animal can provide a sense of excitement as well as responsibility.

“Why don’t you come back to us after the craziness of the holidays is over when you can really take on the full commitment of the pet is,” she said. 

RescueConnect helps rescue animals from local shelters and partners them with owners across the states. More information about can be found on its Facebook page or website.


Johanna Ferebee can be reached at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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