Local animal shelters went to great lengths to dissuade people from giving pets as presents this holiday season because of the risk of return.

Now, they want to make sure those pets remain in their new homes.

“The lack of education is why dogs come back,” said James Carrano, a kennel tech at the Charlotte Harbor-based Animal Welfare League.

Karen Slomba, executive director of The Animal Welfare League, said when an animal gets returned to the shelter, it is a very traumatic experience for them. She added that the more you move the animal from one place to another, they have to get used to new people and a new environment.

”Be patient. A lot of times it’s very scary for animals to go into a new home with strangers,” she said. “Everything’s new: the sights, the sounds the smells. A lot of times it takes weeks, sometimes months.”

Returning an animal to the shelter should be a last resort, Slomba said.

“Every once in a while, we get one or two returns, but we do really prevent the gift giving for that reason,” she said.

Both the Animal Welfare League and the Suncoast Humane Society in Englewood educated the public about giving pets for gifts at the holidays.

“Animals should be placed in homes as lifetime companions,” states the Suncoast Humane Society on its website. “The adoption of an animal as a gift for an individual who is unaware of the adoption can be disastrous for both the new owner and the animal. Each circumstance is unique. Pets should be chosen according to the expectations and lifestyle of the new family, as well as the animal’s individual needs.”

Those who cannot keep their pets should first try to re-home the animals with a friend or family member. Never to list an animal on Craigslist, where sometimes dogs are sought for baiting, fighting or other abuses.

The shelter is working on creating programs to help new owners and their pets with the adjustment period of being in a new home. They haven’t yet set a date for when these programs will begin.

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