Many parents think that the perfect Easter gift for a child is an adorable baby chick or a cute, furry rabbit. These animals require a lot of care. My advice is to give children a chocolate rabbit or a plush toy. There are other ways to teach a child responsibility other than giving them a pet.

Owning an animal is a serious commitment that should only be made if you and your child are ready to provide lifelong care. That cute bunny grows up and could live as long as seven years.

Some parents believe that if a child grows tired of a bunny or baby chick that it can simply be released into the wild. This is not the case. These domesticated animals cannot survive on their own outdoors. After Easter, animal shelters are inundated with unwanted rabbits and chickens. Many of these shelters are bursting at the seams with animals looking for a home and these discarded Easter pets only increase their burden.

As the owner of five rescue dogs, I know the joy of having a pet. There is nothing better than coming home after a long day at work to an animal that is overjoyed to see you. If your family is ready for a pet, visit www.adopt-a-dog.org for a great selection of dogs and cats. This shelter can tell you which animals would be good with children or other pets. Remember that a puppy or a kitten requires a lot of work. I would recommend adopting an older animal, who will be grateful to have a home. The www.ShelterPetProject.org or www.PetFinder.com are other sites you can visit.

Never purchase an animal from a pet store. Many pet stores work with puppy mills and often these dogs are sick or have genetic disorders that come from over breeding.

Spring is a time for new beginnings. Providing a home for a shelter animal, whether it be a bunny, a chick, a dog or a cat will bring you joy and companionship for many years.

Cathy Kangas is a member of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at cathy@praibeauty.com.

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