Beyond the bow: The negative effects of gifting animals for the holidays

On the morning of Dec. 30, 2023, a staff member at Paws 4 You found a collar and a leash tied to a post outside of the shelter with no dog to be found. At around 7 a.m., a volunteer was routinely walking one of the shelter’s dogs around the Southwest Miami-Dade neighborhood when a large German Shepherd ran up to them.  

This is the story of Stevie.

A review of overnight security footage showed that the leash and collar belonged to Stevie. He slipped out of it after he had been abandoned at the rescue.

Stevie, an approximately 2 year-old male German Shepherd mix. (Photo courtesy of Paws 4 You)

In Miami-Dade County last year, over 290 animals were relinquished by owners, according to the Shelter Animals Count Intake and Outcome Database.

Paws 4 You is a nonprofit rescue organization dedicated to saving animals through the help of donors and volunteers. As of Jan. 25, they had 68 animals in their care. The number fluctuates daily.

It typically jumps in January, because the holidays are one of the most popular seasons to gift animals, what are known as “present puppies.”  Often those pets prove unwanted and end up in shelters in the following months.

In Miami-Dade, animal shelter community intakes spiked in the month of January at 2,783 gross intakes. In April, after Easter, shelters see another surge – 1,532 gross intakes in 2023.

2023 Miami-Dade Data Summary (Shelter Animals Count Intake and Outcome Database)

“After the holidays, many animals given as “presents” end up back at shelters,” says Yolanda Berkowitz, founder of Friends of Miami Animals Foundation. “Or worse – sentenced to a life of isolation on a chain, in an outdoor pen or dumped on the street.”

Friends of Miami Animals Foundation is a nonprofit organization that focuses “on helping shelters when population numbers soar by providing resources and support for their programs that help enrich the lives of pets, find their forever homes and help curb overpopulation.” 

The foundation promotes Pawventure, an initiative started by Miami-Dade County Animal Services, allowing community members to take a dog out of the shelter for a day. This initiative, as well as fostering, are alternatives that contribute to animal welfare if adoption does not fit your lifestyle.

When looking to adopt an animal, it is important to consider how they fit into your daily lifestyle while recognizing the time and commitment necessary to properly care for an animal. 

Paws 4 You works to learn as much as possible about their animals to be able to match them with a family that meets their needs. 

Paws 4 You places 20 to 25 dogs in a typical month, with an increase in adoptions during late November and early December. It is more difficult to find homes for the larger dogs in their care.

In the case of Stevie and many other animals, it is important to acknowledge their needs as well as your own to find your perfect match and their forever home.

Quinn, a 1 year-old terrier mix. (Photo Courtesy of Paws 4 You)

Interested in adopting?

Paws 4 You provides applications on their website for interested adopters, which are reviewed by their volunteers in three to five days. New owners also can visit during the organization’s adoption and open house events. The schedule is posted on their website. 

Paws 4 You

8717 SW 134 St

Miami, FL 33176


Additional Resources

Friends of Miami Animals Foundation

2665 S Bayshore Drive

Suite 1200

Miami, FL 33133


Miami-Dade County Animal Services

3599 NW 79 Ave

Doral, FL 33122


Humane Society of Greater Miami

16101 W Dixie Highway

North Miami Beach, FL 33160


Jacqueline Flores Figueras is a junior at Florida International University majoring in digital media and pre-law. Currently, Jacqueline is a college marketing representative for Sony Music U.