Now that the holiday season is upon us, many people think a puppy would make a good gift. What most forget is that puppies require a lot of time, energy and money, and many pet store puppies come from sick and neglected puppy mills.

Nearly 8 million companion animals enter United States shelters each year, half of which are sadly killed. This is a staggering number of innocent lives lost, with millions more spending many years, if not their entire lives, in a small cage hoping to be adopted.

Instead of buying an expensive and high-maintenance puppy as a gift, visit your local animal shelter in order to find one. These loving dogs have already been spayed/neutered, are up-to-date on vaccinations and microchipped.

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We are fortunate in Westchester and Putnam counties to have terrific animal shelters. One of which is the Putnam Humane Society in Carmel. The most intelligent, friendly and loving dogs I have ever met were adopted. Shelter pets want nothing more than to be in a loving home, where they will be a terrific new family member.

So instead of buying a puppy this holiday season, please share your love and home with a dog who desperately needs it. Visit your local shelter, volunteer to walk a dog and always choose to adopt.

Steve Reid is a professional dog trainer based in Somers.