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Caution a good idea when giving the gift of pet ownership

This holiday season, some Worcester residents may be thinking of getting someone they love a pet as a gift. Puppies and kittens are usually popular choices, as these animals can prove to be long-term companions as well as a cherished and memorable gift for an adult or child. However, when buying any animal, it can be important to think comprehensively and be cautious about bringing any new addition into a home -- especially an unexpected one.

One of the main concerns when giving anyone a puppy or dog is avoiding dog bites. Children and dogs are naturally drawn together, but children lack the experience that adults often have when it comes to "reading" a dog's behavior and figuring out if the animal poses a threat or not. Just like a person, a dog's mood can quickly change, but children may not know what to do when this happens. Moreover, a child's playful antics can be misread by any animal and the child could be in danger.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, when buying a dog from a breeder, it's critical to ensure that one is in fact dealing with a bona fide, reputable breeder. Contacting a local club for a particular breed may be helpful, as is attending dog shows if one is searching for a certain breed. Once a person finds a legitimate breeder, it can be helpful to discuss the breed's temperament and health before purchasing the animal.

Dog owners can benefit from being aware of potential liability issues that come with being a pet owner. Likewise, those who have received a dog bite can also avail themselves of legal knowledge when it comes to their rights and options for obtaining compensation for injuries. No individual should have to suffer both financially and emotionally due to a pet owner's negligence.

Source: Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, "Buying a dog in Massachusetts," accessed Dec. 13, 2015

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