A Northern Ireland animal charity has called for people to think before getting a puppy for Christmas this year.
Every Christmas in the UK thousands of parents are persuaded by their children to buy small animals before they have properly considered the suitability of the pet and their needs.
The resulting upsurge in unwanted animals puts a strain on rescue centres like Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Conlig, near Bangor.
The centre is Northern Ireland’s largest independent animal welfare charity and can provide temporary homes for up to 200 small animals but even Assisi struggles with the influx after the festive season.
Animal welfare assistant at Assisi, Cerys Brown, wants people to think before they buy: "Don't get a puppy for Christmas. They don't make good presents and it's definitely not a good idea to do it as a surprise. Quite often you get an instance where children say 'that's not the one I wanted' and you end up with a child that's completely disinterested in the puppy.
"It has to be a family decision and you have to be prepared for every eventuality. We get a lot of animals in after Christmas, even just a day or two after Christmas we would have puppies arrive.
Cerys said parents need to be firmer when saying no to their children: "It's far too easy to walk into a pet shop and buy a rabbit or two because the kids are pestering their parents.
"They walk into the pet shop and the first thing they see are rabbits and guinea pigs and it's 'I want, I want, I want'. Eventually they give in and they're not prepared for it at all.
"The best advice we can give to people before they get a pet for Christmas is to stop and think about it. Do your research and decide what pet suits you best. Is your household suited to a cat? Do you have time for a dog or a puppy and do you have the garden space that a rabbit needs?"
Cerys added that there is a "massive problem" with puppy farms selling designer breeds around Christmas, which actually turn out to be mongrels.
Animal lovers hand over "silly amounts of cash" for the puppies and then experience problems because they haven't been given important vaccinations or training.
She finished by saying: "Come to a sanctuary, find out what's involved in keeping a pet and go from there."