It is well know that animals can have an exceptional impact on humans. Research released by Ohio State University found that avoiding loneliness was the main reason college students have an animal as a companion in college. While adjusting to a new environment and developing social networks, many first and second-year students are left feeling isolated and alone.
“Many students say their pets fulfill a significant role that is missing in their lives. They are not a substitute for human social interaction and support,” said Sara Staats, professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio State’s Newark Campus. “Healthy college students derive benefits from pet ownership such as hedge against loneliness and improved ability to cope.”
Many students find that the hardest part of leaving home is saying good-bye to their animal companions. Some students will remedy this by buying or adopting animals to keep them company at school. As students pack up and find that they can't bring their newly acquired animal back to their parents’ house for winter break, or on that study abroad trip to Fiji, they reluctantly turn them out on the streets to fend for themselves.
As a result, According to Fox news and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), college town animal shelters report a routine rise of abandoned and unwanted animals at the end of each semester. Most students are in a transitional phase of their life, a time when they are not settled in one place and often do not have the resources necessary to properly care for an animal. Also, animals like daily routines, a practice that is hard for most college students to follow as they navigate constantly changing schedules and busy social lives.
Then there’s the issue of money. Although the term ‘poor college student’ may be overused considering the affluence of some who say it, many students are still strapped for cash. The ASPCA estimates the average cost of care per year for a dog or cat is between $1,035 and $1,843. Not to mention unexpected medical emergencies. Ori Eizenberg, a veterinary technician at Affiliated Pet Emergency Services in Gainesville Fla., home of the University of Florida, says students will call in with emergencies only to learn the cost and never show up. The Humane Society of the United States defines criminal animal neglect as the failure to provide an animal with food, water, shelter, or veterinary care, which often leads to seriously compromised health and even death. If students cannot afford to cover veterinary bills, especially in the case of an emergency, they could be responsible for the animal’s premature death. While not a pleasant thought, it’s definitely something prospective animal guardians should consider.
And what would college be without parties? While fun for young people, parties can be extremely stressful and frightening experiences for companion animals. Animals adopted from shelters or rescue organizations may be especially sensitive to loud noises and spaces crowded with people. Eizenberg has dealt with numerous cases of animals injured after parties. She recounts how one dog developed marijuana toxicity and another dog was hit by a car because of distracted partygoers.
The ASPCA recommends leaving your animal at home if it is a good situation there, since this is often a more comfortable and familiar environment than a college setting. Robert Rubsam, a senior at State University of New York at Geneseo, was paid a visit last weekend by his dog, Hero. He says they had a great weekend. Hero made a lot of new friends and everyone he met loved him, especially Robert’s housemates. Although Robert misses Hero and having a dog in his life, he acknowledges the challenges that come along with giving his bud the proper care.
“Taking care of a pet on your own requires more effort than a college student has to give. Dogs require frequent attention and don’t take particularly well to the hours of concentration required for homework,” Robert said.
If you know you can’t take on the responsibility of a lifelong commitment but would still like animals to be a part of your life at school, consider volunteering at your local animal shelter. Or if you have more time and energy to invest, become a foster parent! The October 1st Daily Orange issue features Rescue Me Purebred K9 Rescue, a local organization seeking to place previously neglected and unwanted dogs into temporary or permanent homes. Rescue Me covers all medical expenses and provides open foster homes available to dogs when students travel. Students find the experience very rewarding, the DO notes.
Save a life by volunteering at the ASPCA or Humane Association instead of getting yourself into a failed commitment to an animal. By volunteering or fostering, you can fulfill your social need to be around animals while enriching their lives too.