Pawtificate Christmas Gift
Is a cat a suitable Christmas gift? What if the recipient likes dogs, not cats? In Lake County, the “Pawtificate” might solve this problem. (Photo by Steve Schwartz).

TAVARES – Gift certificates are a pretty simple concept, that serve a very useful purpose, as Marjorie Boyd noted: avoiding the embarrassment of buying someone a gift that the recipient either doesn’t want, or need, or have any use for.
“You might think they need a towel set, but they might not want or need a towel set,” Boyd said.
So you give them a gift certificate instead, and let them hit the local mall and buy whatever it is they truly do want, she added.
“Just like you would want to get a gift certificate from Wal-Mart, you go to Wal-Mart and purchase the gift card and give that as a gift,” Boyd said.
But the whole gift giving system gets a little bit more complicated, Boyd added, when people decide that a really great gift would be a pet – and they turn out to be very wrong.
“I can tell you a lot of times around Christmas, people want to adopt an animal for somebody,” Boyd said. “And their idea of an animal might not be the recipients’ idea of a good pet. So we kind of like to discourage people from getting an animal and then giving it to someone who might not want their gift to be an animal.”
Boyd should know: she’s Lake County’s director of animal services, and every year around the holidays, her office in Tavares gets its share of unwanted animals brought in because they were a gift that somebody really didn’t want, or need.
“It’s tough,” Boyd said. “Here’s this person who likes animals, but it was a gift, so where do they bring it? They bring it here, so of course it’s another animal right back into the shelter that really doesn’t need to be here. You’re looking at almost 20,000 animals a year coming here now.”
Lake County is hoping to offer a positive alternative, using the inspiration of a gift card. Lake County Animal Services is now offering a ‘Pawtificate’ for holiday pet adoptions. These gift certificates are for sale now, allowing the recipient to adopt either a cat or dog from the shelter, located at 28123 County Road 561 in Tavares.
The certificates cost $60, and include the price of adoption, all vaccinations, de-worming, heartworm tests and spay or neutering, if required. The certificate also entitles the owner to purchase a microchip for their new pet at a reduced rate.
“We recognize the gift of a new pet for the holidays can be a special treat for a family or child,” said Gregg Welstead, director of Lake County’s Conservation & Compliance Department. “Because it is a long-term commitment, we wanted a way to allow the gift of pet ownership for the holidays, without being obligated to choose a pet without all family members being able to decide on one that is the perfect fit.”
Or, as Boyd noted, “What they might not think is a good pet” that they unexpectedly got as a gift.
With a Pawtificate as an alternative, the pet owner can make their own choice of what kind of cat or dog they feel instinctively that they’re going to bond with, she added.
“With the certificate program, they can come in and then they can go pick what they want,” Boyd said.
They won’t have a problem finding a pet at the Lake County shelter, she added.
“We have hundreds come in every other day,” she said. “When you have that many animals and when you do the math, you’re looking at 1,000 animals a month, so every 30 days you’ve got a lot of animals coming it.”
The certificates are non-refundable, and can be redeemed between Dec. 27 and March 31, 2012 at the shelter.
“It’s one certificate per animal,” Boyd said. “If they want to get a couple of different types, they want to give a certificate to an animal for somebody, they can come in and get several of them and pass them out to whoever they want.”
For more information about the “Pawtificate” program, or about pet adoption, call 352-343-9688, or log on to Lake County Animal Shelter.

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