At Christmas, it may be tempting to bring home a new furry family member. However, there are a few things to think about before you do!
1) Don't impulse adopt. If you haven't been thinking about adopting a dog or cat for a while, hold off. It's tempting to take someone fuzzy and small home with you during the holidays on a whim, but it's important to think through the decision and consider the responsibility a new pet will bring to your family.
2) Don't gift pets. Pets require a lot of care, so it's important not to give that responsibility to someone who may be unable or unwilling to take on the work. An elderly parent may wish they could have a pet again, but giving them a puppy or kitten is not the answer. Likewise, gifting a pet to children and expecting them to take on all the care won't work either. Many gifted pets end up back at shelters when the recipient finds they didn't want a pet after all, or children don't care for the pet as a parent expects them to. 
3) Consider all the care and costs. Pets require daily care and attention. Cats need to be fed, watered, brushed, loved and have their litter boxes changed. Dogs also need to be fed, watered, brushed, loved and need to have multiple potty breaks and walks each day. With this, the the cost of a pet should also be considered. It's important to research the cost of food, bedding, toys, and most importantly - vet visits and emergency care. The adoption fee is a drop in the bucket to a lifetime of care.
Now: What to do instead?
If you've been thinking about adoption for awhile and happen to come across a pet that meets your criteria -great! Adopt! Remember the holidays are a busy time so make sure you have the time and resources to attend to your new pet.
Instead of gifting a pet to an adult, shop for the fun accessories instead. They need to make the decision to adopt themselves, but you can get the toys, beds and all the other great items they will need (and want) for a furry family member. 
As for kids - parents should never expect a child to look after an animal. While kids can learn responsibility by helping to feed, water, brush and exercise a pet, the care of an animal needs to be done by the adult. Many times pets end up at shelters when children lose interest in the hard work that comes with owning a pet. Pets should not be life lessons in responsibility for kids. 
Adopt in January. While we want our dogs and cats to have homes for the holidays, if adoption is something new on your mind, consider adopting in January. This month has the highest shelter drop off rate for animals of all ages and types. Shelters and rescues will be overflowing with wonderful pets in desperate need of good, forever homes.