Published: Dec 03, 2010 6:28 PM EST
Updated: Dec 03, 2010 3:29 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- They're furry, friendly, and known for their unconditional love. Getting a pet this holiday may seem like the ultimate gift of joy, but Lee County Animal Services is offering you some tips on where and how to find the perfect addition to your family.

They're a present topping many Christmas lists, but its also a sore-spot for animal shelters each December.

"The thinking back then was that it's a hectic time of year, it's not a good time to bring pets into the home and maybe people would be doing it as an impulse," Lee County Animal Service's Ria Brown explained.

But this holiday, Lee County Animal Services is joining 3,500 shelters nationwide to promote adopting a pet, instead of purchasing from a pet store.

"If you research it, most of them have come from puppy mills in the Midwest. They should have current health certificates, which we've found here in our work is not always the case," Brown said.

Lee County Animal Services is hoping to place 300 pets in happy homes this holiday season. Adoption prices start as low as $25.

"That includes all their spay and neuter surgery, vaccinations, de-worming, flea treatments, their county license if they're old enough, micro-chip IDs, it's about a $500 value," Brown said.

The shelter still advises against surprising a loved one with a four-legged friend. Instead, they recommend choosing a pet together, to ensure the animal has a happy home for the long haul.

"You really need to do your homework and research the breed and find out a little bit about it, and find out what type of dog or cat or pet is going to be most suited for your lifestyle and your family," Brown said.

Lee County Animal Services is also offering gift cards for purchase this year. They can be redeemed at any time post-holiday to come and pick out the perfect pet.