Some, but not all, shelters and rescues put a hold on adoptions until after the holidays. Why? Because some folks buy a live gift for another person who may not be ready for the responsibility. But parents or partners who do want to have a pet under the tree can make it happen with some sound advice.

First, plan ahead. Holiday hazards such as candy, guests and decorations can make supervising a new family member nearly impossible. But if you are planning a stay-cation for the holidays, you could create a perfect adoption scenario by giving yourself plenty of time to get accustomed to your new friend and family member. Talk to rescue groups now about what you have planned and what they recommend.

Second, involve the primary caregiver in advance. Arranged marriages are less popular than they once were, for good reason. Love can’t be pre-ordained. Even a young child should have a voice in choosing the individual pet he or she will care for over a significant part (if not all) of his or her childhood. The individual animal should be attracted to kids in general, and yours in particular. Gift certificates are one way to make it a surprise. Then adopt after the hustle and bustle of the season has settled down.

Third, don’t forget that lives are affected. Kids should not lose a family member for being forgetful. Once school starts again, the novelty is bound to wear off and the pet might not get as much of the child’s promised attention. Parents and spouses need to be as much a part of the care of a pet as the recipient of the gift that keeps on giving.

Be realistic about your availability over time. Dogs need several hours of attention each day from someone capable of shaping their behavior. If you work and commute for 10 hours, sleep for 6-8, and hope to eat meals, that leaves 4 hours per day. If you spend that all including your pet, this could work. Cats may require less time each day ,but grooming and litter box maintenance and vet visits do add up. The same is true for small mammals and birds. Animals that live primarily outdoors, like ponies, require even more time.

Adding a family member is a blessing, but make a conscious decision to choose to change your life so that rescues and shelters won’t have to bail you out. Restricting holiday adoptions is just one way these groups try to save lives. If you want to put adoption off until a better time, consider finding a local group on our website to support with a holiday gift in your child or partner’s name. That’s a great stocking stuffer.