German animal shelters ban adoptions during the Christmas period

A pet for Christmas? Certainly not in Germany, if the country's largest animal shelters have anything to say about it. From around December 15 anyone turning up to shelters in major cities such as Berlin, Hanover or Bremen to adopt will be turned away and asked to return in January, according to a report on Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s public international broadcaster.

“The temporary stop is there so that animals do not end up under the Christmas tree, because animals simply are not presents," Arvid Possekel, from the Hanover Animal Shelter, told DW. "Ideally they become members of the family and you just don't give family members as presents.”

Another important factor for people to consider is just how stressful Christmas time can be, according to Possekel. That makes it the worst time of the year to try and settle an animal into a new home. “New Year is also a very hectic time. It means that animals that newly arrive in a home, come at the most stressful time of year,” explained Possekel. “So with the stressful Christmas time with lots of visitors, or driving here and there, as well as New Year's Eve, it means generally people have far too little time to help their pet settle down. It's an enormous strain on the animal, on top of the stress their new surroundings.” The Hanover shelter where Possekel works sees around 4,200 animals coming through its doors each year. It looks after around 450 animals at any one time.

All shelters are happy to receive people willing to provide loving homes to animals and offer them advice on adoption. Families simply have to wait until January to collect them. The vast majority are happy to do so, reports DW.

“Adopting a dog is often an impulsive rather than a rational decision, comments FECAVA president Wolfgang Dohne. “And this initiative will certainly weed out the impulse-buyers, and most likely avoid an influx of dogs in these rescue centres the New Year, when the novelty of having a pet wears off.”

He adds a word of caution regarding the adoption of stray dogs from abroad. “While we as vets applaud the rehoming of dogs, we strongly discourage the cross-border adoption of strays, which has become a fast-growing business that count upon the compassion of the public to ‘save a dog’s life’. Such dogs are often imported without the proper identification, health or background checks and pose a huge risk to public and animal health.”

See the joint FVE/UEVP/FECAVA position paper on responsible dog trade