When Lucille Sadlon first bought her betta fish, she didn’t consider who would care for her little blue pet when she traveled home to Chicago at the end of each semester.
“This is the first time I’ve made a bad decision about animals,” Sadlon, sophomore in architecture, said. “I got him and just assumed I would find someone to take care of him over breaks.”
Her predicament is a common one for many college students. Dr. Lisa Pohlman, veterinarian and president of the Riley County Humane Society, said there is generally an increase in the requests to surrender animals to the humane society at the end of each academic year.
“What concerns me the most is the increase in animals that are just abandoned, either by leaving them outside to fend for themselves, or by leaving them in the home for the landlord to find, hopefully in time to save their lives before they starve or die of dehydration,” Pohlman said. “The latter is not common, but it occurs at least a few times a year. It just shouldn’t happen at all.”
Students who live in the residence halls, like Sadlon, are required to take their pets home over breaks or find other arrangements. Sadlon said she decided to take her betta fish, Matteo, home to Chicago.
“Since my parents are driving here, I am going to put him in a little container and drive the 600 miles home,” Sadlon said.
Brooks Hetle, residence coordinator at Goodnow Hall, said that if any pets are left behind by students and found by hall staff, they help the student make arrangements for the break. Sometimes they aren’t able to catch the left-behind pets before students leave, Hetle said.
“If there was a pet we didn’t catch, we would try to find a staff member that could take care of the animal over break,” Hetle said. “We don’t want any harm to come to the pet.”
If that were to happen, Hetle said that a hall staff member would have a conversation with the student about the pet policy.
“If they can’t fulfill the responsibilities listed in the pet policy, then they will be asked to remove their pet from the hall,” Hetle said.
At the Riley County Humane Society, Pohlman said she faces a different issue concerning students and their pets. The Riley County Humane Society is a foster-only organization, meaning that animals surrendered to the humane society are placed in a foster home until they are adopted.
“We need time to find placement for animals that are being surrendered to us,” Pohlman said. “All too often people want to surrender their pets ‘now,’ or ‘by tomorrow,’ and that doesn’t give us time to help.”
Pohlman said that since many of the humane society’s fosters are students who leave at the end of the school year, the humane society is always recruiting more fosters to handle the increase in surrendered pets.
“It’s like a double whammy, more animals needing help with fewer fosters to place them with,” Pohlman said.
Despite the complications of arranging summer plans for her pet, Sadlon said she likes having Matteo around.
“It just makes the dorm feel more homey, like I am coming back to someone,” Sadlon said. “He’s always happy to see me.”