Dozens of shelters in Germany have told potential pet owners that no animals will be handed over from 15 Dec til the end of Christmas.

The temporary ban on new adoptions aims to reduces unwanted animals being dumped after Christmas. Spontaneous adoptions are traumatising for the pets.

The Bremen shelter has taken in around 1,100 animals this year and successfully given up 1,000 for adoption.

Claudia Hämmerling from Berlin's animal protection association:

The decision to keep an animal must not be taken lightly - the whole family must be involved in the decision-making process

Animals are living beings with needs and feelings. They are not suitable as presents.

Arvid Possekel, from the Hanover Animal Shelter, told DW:

With the stressful Christmas time with lots of visitors, or driving here and there, as well as New Year's Eve, it means generally people have far too little time to help their pet settle down. It's an enormous strain on the animal, on top of the stress their new surroundings.

Most shelters will still be open for viewings - but families will have to come back in January after they've had time to think it through.

Dog Trust in UK received nearly 5,000 calls between December 26 and January 31 from people who want to hand over their dogs.

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.