When hanging out with a friend or family member’s dogs or seeing cute dog videos on the internet, it’s easy to want one for ourselves. For those with the capacity to fully care for them, owning a dog can reduce depression, loneliness and even blood pressure. For most college students, however, trying to take care of a dog can be burdensome for them and, at worst, abusive for the dog. Our desire for free cuddles should take a back seat to a serious consideration of our schedules, finances and emotional stability.
According to a study by the American Humane Association, one in 10 pets adopted from a shelter were no longer in their adopted home six months later. The owners in the study with high concerns for cost and time commitment were the most likely to abandon or return their pets. For college students, cost and time are the two most precious commodities there are. This makes us especially prone to non-retention of pets we adopt, and the process of being returned — or worse, abandoned — can be heartbreaking for dogs.
Even when dogs are kept they still need lots of attention. As a result, any extracurriculars or jobs become difficult because they conflict with students’ responsibilities to their dog. Students are then put in the position of choosing between their social and academic lives or the well-being of their pet.
Julia Schoos, an English sophomore with two dogs, says many of her friends’ attempts at dog ownership ended in disaster. “One of my old roommate’s dogs was a puppy, and while she was away at class he chewed up around $1,000 worth of stuff in the apartment because he was left alone for so long.”
The destruction of your items while you’re away are just the beginning of a dog’s high costs. You have to pay for toys, dog food, medication, collars and leashes, pet insurance and more, not to mention the initial price of the dog itself which can reach into the thousands. Without outside support from their parents or family, the time and money it takes to properly care for a dog is too much for most college students.
These constant financial and social sacrifices are pervasive across time. This means that getting a dog won’t just affect you, it will also affect your future self. You and your dog will be together through graduations, career changes and moves. Even if you are ready for a dog now, will your future self feel the same enthusiasm about a pet? Will you still be able to handle the responsibility? In case you won’t, it’s important that you don’t adopt a dog on a whim after a touristic visit to a shelter.
However, if you can’t help but be enchanted by the soft searching eyes of puppies hoping for a friend, you can still have the benefits of their presence without the overwhelming responsibility. Many shelters, such as Austin Pets Alive!, offer volunteering opportunities. You can walk a dog staying there and, if you’re looking for something more substantial, even foster one in your home temporarily until they are adopted.
Most college students cannot afford the cost and time of owning a dog. Acknowledging this fact is an important part of treating our furry friends as well as ourselves fairly and with love.
Zaher is a government and European thought sophomore from Hudson.