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The purr-fect gift'

Tina Churchill has visited Scooby, a pit bull at the Jackson County Animal Shelter in Phoenix, about a half-dozen times while considering adopting him. --- photo by Denise Baratta — — — — Pets are 'a lifetime commitment' that shouldn't be adopted just on impulse

Medford resident Tina Churchill and Scooby are on their sixth date in a month at Jackson County Animal Care & Control in Phoenix.

I've been looking at him for a while, Churchill said, as she pet the pit bull's scruff. He's a cutie.

Churchill and her partner, Kelly Duncan, will decide whether to adopt Scooby before Christmas.

He'll be a present to my dog, 'Rocky', Churchill said. He misses his companion.

Rocky's companion, a pug named, Winnie, died three months ago, she explained.

— Churchill's careful consideration over whether to take Scooby home is the kind of approach animal shelter workers say they encourage.

During the holidays, workers say they have to use extra caution to avoid adopting out pets intended for last-minute gifts.

The concern over impulse adoptions has prompted the shelter to close its doors Christmas Eve, said Colleen Macuk, program manager at the county animal shelter.

Impulse adoptions often result in the pet's return to the shelter, Macuk said.

We never adopt out an animal for a gift from one person to another, she said. A pet is a lifetime commitment, and the person making that commitment should have the choice of the pet.

The shelter rarely closes its doors on Christmas Eve, as it usually falls on a weekday when the enforcement division has to continue its work, she said.

However, shelter workers typically deny all adoptions the day before Christmas, she said.

We just let people know they have to pick up the animal after the holiday, she said.

Committed Alliance To Strays, or C.A.T.S., will be open from noon to — p.m. for prearranged pickups.

The Southern Oregon Humane Society will also be closed Saturday for deep cleaning.

For the fifth consecutive year, the humane society has joined a nationwide campaign to spur adoptions during the holidays.

The Home 4 the Holidays Pet Adoption Campaign primarily involves advertisements.

One advertisement features the picture of a forlorn-looking dog and says, No one wants to be alone for the holidays ... especially a homeless pet!

The humane society's Web site states, Imagine a kitten crawling into a holiday stocking ... or a dog resting comfortably at your feet as you read holiday greetings from friends and family.

MaryAnn Peterson, an animal rescuer who works with the county animal shelter, said such ads send the wrong message to the public about the responsibility involved in owning a pet.

An animal is not a toy, she said. It's a living being.

Peterson said the holidays are the worst time for a new pet to get acclimated to new surroundings.

Children are running around, she said. The puppy or kitten gets stepped on.

But Bill Templeman, executive director for the Southern Oregon Humane Society, said the ads do not encourage impulse adoptions. They are intended to catch the attention of potential pet owners, who might have otherwise bought their pet from a pet store.

He said the humane society discourages adoptions for surprise gifts.

The ad does tug on our heartstrings, he said. It's meant to pique the interest of people considering adopting a pet and gives us a chance to discuss with them when the best time and situation is to adopt.

The purr-fect gift?"pachen@mailtribune.com.

Tina Churchill has visited Scooby, a pit bull at the Jackson County Animal Shelter in Phoenix, about a half-dozen times while considering adopting him. --- Mail Tribune photo by Denise Baratta - Mail Tribune images