School is almost in session, and many students may consider acquiring a pet to keep them company while they’re away at college. After all, a pet provides an instant companion and helps deal with the stress of homesickness, right? If you are a student, or a parent of one, before you answer “yes” to this question, you will want to think it through carefully.
Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, has allowed students to bring their pets to live with them for years. Their pet-only dorm allows dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, sugar gliders, guinea pigs, lizards, and birds. The only exception, however, is that certain breeds are banned — pit bull, rottweiler, German shepherd, chow, and Akita dogs are not allowed. Many students are choosing Stephens College specifically because of its pet-friendly policies. What’s great about the pet dorm at Stephens College is the fact that students can foster pets through Columbia Second Chance, an animal rescue organization, if they want a pet but don’t have one of their own.
Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the ultimate pet-friendly college. Eckerd has the loosest pet policy of any school. There are five dedicated dorms where every resident is allowed to own one or two pets. And the range of pets is immense, as students are able to take almost any animal, including dogs under 40 pounds and cats. There’s even one academic building where pets are allowed inside.
If you are a college student with a pet, before you get too excited about bringing your pet with you to school, Stephens and Eckerd College seem to be the exceptions to the rule. Most universities have provisions against students keeping pets on campus. Even those students who choose to live off campus may have difficulty finding housing that will allow them to keep a pet. Still, if a student finds that his or her living situation allows a pet, you will still want to question if it’s a good idea to bring one. If a pet already exists in the family, and it’s a matter of the student bringing that pet along, that’s one thing; but if a college student decides to acquire an animal that they don’t already have, that’s another issue entirely.
Before adopting an animal, a student will want to consider the long-term commitment. A pet’s lifespan can be 15 years or more, considerably longer than the time spent in college. Aside from housing constraints and possible commitment issues, it takes a great deal of time to care for a pet. Between classes, homework, and not to mention parties, the student needs to consider whether or not he will have time for the pet. Keeping a goldfish is one thing, but a dog is quite another story. Most dogs require two 45-minute walks a day, which can be a big commitment for anyone. A cat, however, could make a great companion for a college student given the right circumstances. Cats don’t require walks, they pretty much litter train themselves, and they do better when left alone then a dog would. The student should also become educated about cat ownership and must realize that cats can live longer than dogs — sometimes up to age 18 or 20, so she should be willing to make that commitment.
Here are more questions that students needs to ask themselves before adopting a pet:
• Why do they want a pet?
• Do they have time for a pet?
• Can they afford a pet? (not just food but medical bills as well)
• Are they prepared to deal with the special problems a pet can cause?
• Can they have a pet where they live?
• Is it a good time to adopt a pet?
• Are their living arrangements suitable for the animal they have in mind?
• Do they know who will care for the pet while away on vacation or break?
• Will they be a responsible pet owner?
• If the student has roommates, do they all agree on allowing a pet in the dorm or house? And will they follow the same rules as the pet owner, i.e., not letting the cat outside?
• What will they do after school ends — if moving back home, will their parents allow a pet in their home?
• Are they prepared to keep and care for the pet for its entire lifetime?
Living near Santa Barbara City College for the last eight years, I’ve noticed that many students have pets. In my experience here, I’ve seen many college students move in with a cat and then move out without it. These cats are abandoned and forced to fend for themselves. Those that aren’t spayed or neutered create a much bigger problem.
If you visit any local animal shelter you’ll find many young pets — victims of irresponsible pet owners who allowed their pets to breed. But what you’ll also find are adolescent pets — pets who were obtained when they were young, were possibly never trained properly, and then were relinquished to shelters as adolescents — which can be a difficult age to adopt. These were animals who may have been adopted by people who didn’t think through the responsibilities of pet ownership.
So what’s the answer? Should a college student adopt a pet? If a student is thinking about getting a pet while at school, the pros and cons must be weighed carefully. Students must educate themselves in regard to proper care for the particular pet they are looking to adopt, and most importantly, they need to make a lifetime commitment so that the pet doesn’t end up overwhelming our already overpopulated animal shelters.
Free Adoption Event at ASAP this weekend!
Last year’s free adoption event was a huge success — 76 cats and kittens found homes over the course of a single weekend. If you’ve been thinking about adopting a cat, the time is now. All adoption fees for adult cats (6 months and older) will be waived this Saturday and Sunday only. To encourage the adoption of kittens in pairs, ASAP will be offering 2-for-1 kittens.
ASAP’s Free Adoption Event is Saturday-Sunday, August 18-19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. During the special event, there will be no adoption fee for adult cats; kittens will be two for $75.
Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization that takes care of the cats and kittens at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter. ASAP provides humane care for these animals and works to eliminate the practice of euthanizing them for reasons other than serious health or behavior problems.
For more information, visit ASAP at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. Adoption hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit www.asapcats.org or call (805) 683-3368.
The following is included in the adoption fee at ASAP: spay or neuter surgery, flea treatment, vaccinations, microchipping, health evaluation, including testing for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Cats thought to be 10 years or older receive a full blood panel evaluation, thus assuring that the cat is indeed healthy and adoptable, medical and drug coverage through ASAP’s vet for two weeks beyond adoption, if necessary, plus temperament evaluation and cat carrier (you can save the county money by bringing your own).
Wags n’ Whiskers Festival
On Sunday August 26, CARE4Paws hosts its fourth annual Wags n’ Whiskers Festival at Girsh Park in Goleta from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fun-filled event — Santa Barbara County’s largest adoption festival — features dogs, cats, and bunnies from 20-plus animal shelters and rescues countywide. The festival also showcases a range of local pet service providers, including Lemos, Dioji, Angel Veterinary Hospital, Camp Canine, and HydroPaws. Among the proud sponsors, CARE Hospital, Chrissie’s Fund, Montecito Bank & Trust, Citrix Online, Valley Pets, and Advanced Veterinary Specialty.
Festival-goers enjoy a great mix of activities, such as agility by Goleta Valley Dog Club, Flyball with the Santa Barbara Supersonic, dancing dogs, and police-dog performances. We also pay a special tribute to the “invisible shelter pet,” great dogs and cats who, for no good reason, get overlooked at the shelter. Our fun Pawsitive Thinking Kids Corner invites children to discover how to care for all living beings, while local veterinarians share the latest in animal wellness. Pros from Santa Barbara’s Paul Mitchell The School style two- and four-legged alike, and photographer Bonnie Baker offers pet portraits. Additionally, Project PetSafe provides low-cost vaccines, microchipping, and licensing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The organizer, CARE4Paws (short for Community Awareness, Responsibility, Education), is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that works to reduce pet overpopulation and keep animals out of the shelter. Services include early education, bilingual community outreach, free spays/neuters, dog training intervention, pit bull education, and countywide adoption events — like Wags n’ Whiskers. What makes Wags n’ Whiskers unique is that it sheds light on the impressive work of the county’s animal shelters and rescues and lets the public meet a large number of adoptable pets outside the typical shelter environment.
Last year’s events drew more than 1,000 visitors and inspired forever homes for as many as 35 cats and dogs. This year, CARE4Paws aims to significantly increase the number of adoptions, visitors and vendors, and make it an even more successful gathering for our community’s animal lovers. Visit care4paws.org/wagsnwhiskers.html for more information and a list of festival participants
Adoptable Pet of the Week