Thompson: Adopting a dog is a bigger commitment than most students are prepared for

Laurel Thompson

Every spring, it seems that an increasing number of college students use social media as an advertising platform to either find a lost pet or get rid of one they already have.

Leases will be ending soon and students are beginning to figure out new living arrangements for post-graduation or next school year, which creates apparently unforeseen problems for those with pets. Even for college students who aren’t leaving their pets behind, adoption and lost pet advertisements are an indicator of the negligence and lack of responsibility that results from impulsive decisions made in young adulthood.

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The feelings of freedom and exhilaration we experience when moving away from our parents on the road to independence are natural, but should be expressed sensibly and within reason. For some, barhopping in Mexico after high school graduation and going to frat parties satisfies these feelings, and for others, true companionship seems more appealing. Sometimes nothing sounds better than taking on the world with a dog by your side, but the reality is that most college students are ill-equipped to support another life in the midst of the work, school and social obligations that take up a majority of their time.

It is not uncommon for some college students to make an attempt at compensation for the daytime neglect of their pets by letting them out at house parties — only for them to get spilled and stepped on in a crowded room of drunk people, which can be especially traumatizing if there are strobe lights and loud music. As much as I hate to say it, some people even think it’s funny to give animals alcohol and blow smoke in their faces at parties like this, especially if it isn’t their pet. It’s often this kind of neglect and abuse that leads college students to post lost animal advertisements on Facebook the next morning when they see that their gate was left open and their scared pet had escaped.

To be fair, not all college students with pets fit this abusive scenario or neglect their pets, but the trend is significant enough that I think it is worth addressing. I hate going to a party and seeing a traumatized dog under the table, painfully deciding which extreme it would rather choose. No animal should be treated this way and so it is my opinion that there is no room in the busy college life for pets unless they are able to be properly cared for in terms of both happiness and health.

Aside from the time commitment, pets cost money — money that college students usually don’t have. And by this, I don’t mean the hundreds of dollars people spend at PetSmart to support puppy mills. I mean the cost of adopting from a shelter, spaying or neutering the animal, regularly visiting a vet for check-ups and vaccinations, buying high-quality food with natural ingredients and paying pet deposits so the animal doesn’t find itself back in a metal cage when the landlord of Aspen Heights finds cat piss on the carpet.

In other words, adopting a pet is more than a decade-long commitment if done right, and it is wrong for anyone to do so if this is not their intention. College is a time of change, uncertainty and exploration, and adopting a pet should not be a part of the experiment. But if you already have a pet in college, remember that although they are only a part of your life, you are all of theirs. 

Collegian Columnist Laurel Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurelanne1996.