COVINGTON -- Imagine this scene: A young child peers under the tree on Christmas morning and is greeted with the cool nose and wet kiss of a tail-wagging puppy.
Then imagine this same puppy chewing through a just-unwrapped pair of shoes or whimpering to be taken outside at 2 o'clock in the morning.
The warm image from a few hours earlier can begin to fade as cold reality sets in.
People considering adopting a pet need to be prepared for the responsibility involved with caring for the life of an animal, said Dr. Shannon Miller, a veterinarian at Animal Medical of Covington and clinic director of East Metro Animal Emergency Clinic.
"There is an increase in pet adoptions at Christmastime and there is an increase in pet abandonment right after Christmastime," she said. "Animal Control gets the brunt of that.
"Kids can be super excited because there's a new puppy under the tree, but in reality the care the puppy needs can be overwhelming," Miller said.
Newton County Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hooson said the holidays can be a particularly troubling time. She said many pets are surrendered during this time because some decide they can't care for their pets along with all the holiday activities and traveling.
At the same time, she said, Christmas is a popular time for people to come in wanting to adopt a dog or cat to give as a gift to their children.
"We advise that people think ahead and consider the consequences of doing that," Key-Hooson said. "Too often in that situation those pets are treated as other gifts; they're played with for a while, but then put to the side."
Key-Hooson and Freddie Ellis, senior administrative specialist with Newton County Animal Control, said they have even seen animals brought to the shelter that apparently had been adopted from outside a retail store during the holidays but then left on the side of the road not 5 miles away.
"Some parents just can't tell their kids 'no,'" Ellis said.
Many experts advise that adopting a pet should be a family decision.
"I always recommend people research the breed they're interested in buying and then go to pound or Animal Control with the kids and let them see the puppies, see how active and energetic they are. Some kids are afraid and you don't want to find that out after you're home," Miller said.
Key-Hooson suggested that parents who really want to give their child a pet for Christmas should purchase all the items that pet will need -- collar, food, bed, shelter, etc. -- and give those as the gift.
"Then after Christmas, you can pick out the animal everyone wants," she said.
Miller added that many rescue organizations will bring the pet to the home and do in-home interviews.
"I think that's a good idea because you can see how the pet will interact with you and your home and any other pets," Miller said.
Once a decision has been made to adopt a pet, Miller said owners need to make sure the animal remains current on its vaccinations and get the pet spayed or neutered. She also recommended they get a microchip placed in the animal in the event the pet breaks free.
"And owners need to be prepared that the animal will get sick and that will require care," she said. "Buying a pet is not a one-time purchase."
Those interested in adopting a pet can visit Newton County Animal Control, located at 210 Lower River Road. The shelter is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.