By Dana Kozlov

Chicago (CBS) — For some, the last minute rush to find the perfect Christmas gift included a stop at Chicago’s animal shelter Monday. Those shoppers were looking to bring home a four-legged present. But, this gift selection requires extra care.

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Volunteers at Chicago’s Animal Care and Control are helping spread holiday cheer to the dozens of dogs and cats at the Southwest Side shelter, while others came with visions of new family members dancing in their heads.

“We’ve had a lot of questions on social media and people having inquiries about when is a good time to get a dog or a cat,” executive director Kelley Gandurski said. “A lot of families want to surprise their children for the holiday”

Bolingbrook resident Katherine Thurmon is one of them.

“My daughter has been hoping and asking, “are we going to have a dog for Christmas?” Thurmon said. “So, I’m looking to adopt.”

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Thurmon is looking for a smaller, friendly dog and may have met a match. But, Gandurski says it’s an important decision, which is why pre-adoption counseling is also important.

“We really want to make sure that people understand this is a commitment and responsibility for life,” Gandurski said. “We really want everyone to take it seriously.”

As for giving a pet to another family as a gift, Animal Care and Control does not allow it, and the rescue community frowns upon it.

But the goal, holiday or not, is to place every shelter animal possible with a family, foster or permanent.

“We have an abundance of wonderful cats and dogs that are ready to go home this season,” Gandurski said.

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The executive director of Safe Humane Chicago says 17,000 cats and dogs will have come through Animal Care and Control this year alone. It’s an increase, but officials aren’t sure why.