Pets Do Not Belong Under the Christmas Tree


In the run up to Christmas Day, Northern Ireland animal welfare charity, the USPCA, is appealing to the public to not get young animals as Christmas gifts. During the festive season, as we plan our Christmas celebrations and gifts, it can be very tempting to welcome a pet to your family as a Christmas gift. Whilst the USPCA understands the intent behind this gesture, the Charity is cautioning that pet ownership is a big decision and as such, animals should not be given as surprises or exchanged like a commodity on Christmas Day.

Northern Ireland is renowned as a Nation of dog lovers, so naturally many of us will be aware that the decision to welcome a pet into your home is a big undertaking. Potential owners must be aware beforehand of the complex needs which can differ from animal to animal, or indeed breed to breed. Feeding, grooming, behavioural training, healthcare requirements, and an abundance of love and care are all significant considerations before getting a pet.

Commenting on the issue, USPCA Chief Executive, Brendan Mullan, said, “For the USPCA this is unfortunately an issue we come up against each year, as there is a seasonal demand for young animals such as puppies or kittens. Undoubtedly, pets can have such a wonderful impact on our lives through much love and companionship but before any decisions are made, we’re urging the public to give careful consideration to what responsible pet ownership involves and if they can fulfil their pet’s needs.

“Under no circumstances should a pet be taken in on a whim or as a surprise – these decisions, rooted in impulse, are unfortunately the actions that can cause animals to suffer if they do not receive the care they need."

“Regrettably, the demand we see at this time of the year, also spurs on the illegal puppy farming and trafficking industry. At this point, we are all too aware of the serious issue here in Northern Ireland, whereby pups from the Republic of Ireland are being smuggled to Northern Ireland and trafficked to Great Britain.” added Brendan.

Just weeks ago, the USPCA released its report ‘Puppy Dog Fortunes’ which uncovered the appalling activity taking place in the region and beyond which causes much suffering to not only the mothers and pups, but also the unsuspecting public who are sold a sick pup, that may not survive, for a startling amount of money.

Brendan stated, “Our report gives a shocking insight into the scale and nature of this industry – based on the movements of a single ‘licensed’ pet transporter, who is estimated to be illegally transporting 120 pups a week, there is a prospective value of £11.7 million in a year. Let’s be clear – these individuals are driven by one thing and one thing only – greed – they have no concerns for the welfare of your potential pup. The conditions in which these pups are raised are appalling, from overbred bitches, used and abused for profit, to the cramped and disease-ridden enclosures. No matter the temptation, please do not engage with these individuals. The message is out there, but we now need the public to take heed – we all have a vital role to play in helping end this horrific practice, otherwise it will remain a vicious cycle of cruelty and suffering.”

Very often legitimate breeders will closely assess your suitability to the puppy’s requirements. The USPCA has also highlighted how illegal breeders are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to avoid thorough checks of pups and the environment they were reared in. To protect yourself from the callous actions of such individuals, consider the following:

  • Rehoming a pet from the USPCA or local animal rescue instead
  • Always seeing a puppy with its mother and litter
  • Not buying a pet from a car boot, the back of a van or a market stall
  • Never agreeing to the suggestion of a ‘helpful’ meeting point
  • Asking if the person is a registered commercial breeder, if so record the number from the Local Authority Registration document
  • Enquiring about the pup’s health status including worming and parasites, inoculations etc. Get verifiable veterinary confirmation
  • Obtaining a proper receipt