The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is not an ideal time to surprise a loved one with a new puppy or other pet as a gift, said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff in a press release."The holiday season may seem like the perfect time to give a puppy as a gift, but too often families are not prepared for the responsibility and commitment that comes with dog ownership," said Wolff. "Before buying or adopting a new pet, families should want, expect and be prepared for it. I urge all Pennsylvanians to prepare their homes and schedules for a new pet before adopting or buying one during the busy holiday season."

Animals should never be given to someone as a surprise. Owners should be educated about the animal's needs and be prepared to care for the animal before welcoming it into their homes.

Wolff said animals from shelters or rescues make great pets and can provide many years of loyal companionship.

More than 300 humane societies and rescues have dogs available for adoption in Pennsylvania.

If purchasing a dog from a breeder, ensure the breeder is reputable and visit the breeding facilities to inspect the dogs and facilities. Check the breeder's kennel inspection reports online at www.agriculture.state.pa.us/padoglaw.

The Pennsylvania Dog Law, Act 119 of 2008, requires that puppies be at least eight weeks old before being adopted or purchased.

To confidentially report unsatisfactory conditions at a kennel, or if a kennel is suspected of being illegal, call the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's toll-free hotline at 1-877-DOG-TIP1.

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