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Experts urge people to plan before giving pets as presents

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Families adding a pet to their household this holiday season should remember it's a commitment that extends well beyond Christmas morning.

In many households this holiday season, a dog or cat is on the kids' wish lists. That's why the Humane Society of the United States reminds families that a new pet is a significant addition.

“A dog or a cat or a puppy or a kitten is a big commitment,” Alan Heymann of HSUS said. “We're talking about new medical expenses, even with a healthy animal that run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars in a year."

Experts said the first thing to do is to take a good look at how a pet will fit into a daily routine and answer questions like: Who is going to take responsibility for feeding and walking, especially once everyone goes back to work and school after the holidays?

When choosing an animal, ask questions to make sure a particular pup is the right fit for the family.

“If you're looking at a shelter or a rescue situation, you want to find out the history of the animal," Heymann said. “Where did the animal come from? Why has the animal ended up in shelter or rescue? If we're talking about an adult dog, what about things like house training, or how they interact with other animals around?"

And the holidays can be a hazardous time for pets. Keep them away from choking hazards like tinsel and ribbons, and plants like poinsettia, holly, and pine needles—which can be harmful if swallowed.