Policies that state pets should not be adopted as gifts are prevalent at many animal welfare organizations, likely based on the myth that animals who weren't specifically chosen by their new owners may be considered less valuable.
This belief is counter to research conducted by the ASPCA in 2013. The study, entitled “Should Dogs and Cats be Given as Gifts?,” was published in the journal Animals.
ASPCA Research Results
Using a random dial method through an omnibus survey, we reached 222 individuals who reported they had obtained a pet as a gift. When asked if obtaining a pet as a gift increased, decreased or had no impact on the love or attachment to the pet, 96 percent thought it either increased or had no impact. Additionally, 86 percent of the pets referred to in the study were still in the home.
"We are hopeful that this research will open more doors for more dogs and cats in the sheltering system to go home."
The ASPCA’s data adds to a body of research on the topic. New et al. (1999) identified the source of approximately 2,600 dogs and 2,300 cats relinquished to 12 shelters in four regions of the U.S. They found that dogs had most frequently come from friends, shelters and breeders, and that the odds of dog relinquishment were higher when acquiring an animal from a shelter, friend, as a stray, and from a pet shop compared to receiving an animal as a gift.
Cats who were relinquished to shelters had originally come from friends, as strays, and shelters most frequently. The odds of cat relinquishment were higher when acquiring an animal from a shelter, a friend, as a stray, and from a pet shop, compared to receiving an animal as a gift.
In 1999, Scarlett et al identified 71 reasons given for relinquishment. "Unwanted gift" was listed as a reason for only 0.3% of dogs and 0.4% of cats entering the shelters surveyed, compared with "No time for pet" as a reason 10% of dogs were relinquished and "allergies in family" as a reason 18% of cats were relinquished.
Patronek et al.  examined risk factors for dog relinquishment at one shelter and concluded that dogs received as gifts were at significantly decreased risk of being relinquished, compared to dogs who were purchased or adopted.
What Shelters Can Do
We urge animal welfare agencies to give pets as gifts a try, and have compiled resources to get you started:
Home for the Holidays: Delivering Pets for Christmas
Pets as gifts? Make like Charleston Animal Society and just say yes. At this agency, volunteers go all out to create a magical experience for families.