SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A disturbing national trend of trading older dogs in for brand new puppies is making headlines this holiday season.
The head of one Springfield animal shelter said it's something that, unfortunately, happens too often and not just during Christmas.
It's a difficult concept for many pet owners to grasp, but Pam Peebles, the executive director of the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center, said people abandoning or surrendering their older dogs to get a puppy is a reality.
"It is something that we unfortunately see. The number of aged dogs coming into shelters is shockingly high," Peebles said.
Many pet lovers wonder how someone could do this, at a time when some say an older dog needs familiarity and comfort most.
Peebles told Western Mass News that, often times, it comes down to perceived cost.
"We think that maybe as dogs age and the owner recognizes they're a little lame or have dental disease or just isn't right, the threat of the cost, expense of a veterinarian is something they can't handle or have never had a veterinary relationship, so they're afraid of reaching out and being judged after all these years," Peebles said.
However, what many don't realize, Peelbes said, is the cost of a puppy can often exceed medical costs for an aging dog.
"Whether they're free or not, you still have the expense of veterinary visits, booster vaccinations. They often need a series of three to four vaccinations, the neutering. There's so many expenses that come with a new animal...and plus all that stuff, you have to get all the new stuff. The cost of taking care of the older dog is, arguably, not that more expensive," Peebles added.
The issue is compounded during the holidays when so many people look to give the gift of a pet.
If you are looking to get a dog for the holidays, TJO said maybe consider an older dog or consider getting someone a gift certificate.
"There's not a lot of folks out there that are going to be excited about a surprise animal if they have no idea that it's coming. I think most, most, most people want to choose their own pet. I think it's exciting. It's a really big deal," Peebles said.
Peeples said the silver lining is when they land here, senior dogs get the medical care they need and the old becomes new again, ready for their forever homes.