German animal shelters are putting a temporary ban on adoptions over the Christmas period to prevent pets from being received as presents only to be abandoned again after the festive period.
Several shelters across the country are participating with Berlin's Animal Shelter — the largest in Europe — announcing that prospective pet owners will not be able to collect their animals between December 19 and 27.
The shelter said the move was designed to prevent people from making "spontaneous" adoptions as many animals are then returned to the shelter which is "traumatising" for them.
"To have pets brings joy and a better quality of life, but also a great responsibility," Claudia Hammerling from Berlin's Shelter, said in a statement.
"The decision to keep an animal must not be taken lightly — the whole family has to be involved in the decision-making process.
"Animals are living beings with needs and feelings. They are not suitable as presents," she added.
Instead, the shelter is happy to hand out vouchers to put under the tree so that "after the holidays, the whole family can come and look in peace for a suitable animal."
What's the situation elsewhere in Europe?
Over in the UK, the Dogs' Trust charity has for the past 40 years run a campaign in the weeks ahead of the festive season to remind people that "a dog is for life, not just Christmas".
Last year, it received nearly 5,000 calls between December 26 and January 31 from members of the public wanting to hand over their dog.
"Every year — even on Christmas Day itself — we have dogs brought to us from people who have received them as presents and don't want them," Adam Clowes, the Dogs' Trust Operations Director, said in a statement.
"Once the initial Christmas sparkle has worn off and people realise the huge commitment it takes to own a dog, they come into our care.
"It's heart-breaking for us to see when it could so easily have been prevented," he added.
The trend is similar in France where the 30 Million D'Amis (30 Million Friends) charity warned last month that many of the animals bought during the holiday season are then abandoned the following summer on roadsides.
According to the charity, some 100,000 pets are abandoned every year in France, 60,000 of whom during the summer.