Opinion: Pets in college not worth investment, added responsibilities

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At home, the lower half of my bed is somehow occupied entirely by a 12-pound miniature poodle. At my house in Manhattan, the most lively animal interactions I have are killing crickets in our living room. It’s quiet and dark when I come home from work, and when I’m working on homework, there’s no little animal with which to take a fetch break. But no matter how much I miss my dog at home, I can’t bring myself to get a pet while still enrolled in college. My life has too many factors that may negatively affect an animal’s life at the expense of some comfort in mine.

Like students themselves, dogs are products of their environments and can be easily stressed by situations to which humans are accustomed. Parties or large amounts of people in a home can make a dog or cat feel unsafe. A test or group project of the owner may disrupt the routine of the dog. Consistent timetables are best for young puppies who are often just being house trained. Students have anything but consistent schedules and may harm the dog’s learning, level of obedience or well-being.

According to a guide published by Petco, crate training may alleviate some stress on a dog. The crate becomes a safe place when other parts of life become overwhelming. The proper sized crate for each animal depends on their size and temperament, and may change over time.

In addition, apartment complexes are not always pet-friendly. If they do have a special rate for pets, most of them are monthly fees on top of a regular rent. At University Crossing, the pet rent is $30 a month after a $300 non-refundable pet fee at the beginning of the lease. Food, veterinary charges, accessories like leashes and toys and damages incurred to property make up another financial commitment that could burden a college student. Moving is another stressor for a dog, which is a big factor in a young adult’s life.

The city of Manhattan places restrictions on pet ownership that younger residents, like college students, may not realize. Manhattan has a dangerous dogs ordinance, which means some breeds can be classified as needing special restrictions no matter the behavior of the animal. Pit bulls, Chow chows and German shepherds all fall under this law.

Pets that don’t fall under the dangerous category can be labeled a nuisance animal if it “molests or interferes with persons in the public right of way or chases vehicles, attacks or injures persons, or any domestic animal; damages public or private property other than that of its owner or harborer by its activities or with its excrement; scatters refuse that is bagged or otherwise contained; causes any condition which threatens or endangers the health or well-being of persons or other animals; or causes a disturbance by loud, frequent and habitual barking, howling, yelping, mewing or screeching.”

There are two shelters in Manhattan where volunteers can walk animals or volunteer in office positions in order to be close to the animals. A visit to Sunset Zoo may curb some of the need to be around animals. Even visiting or taking care of a friend’s pet could help – and someone with a pet would surely appreciate the help.

At the most desperate times, a walk around Petco or Petsmart will help curb those feelings. If I have a little extra cash, I pick up a little bone at the store and send it back home.

Being in contact with animals, but at a safe distance, allows me enough affection to feel better with fewer responsibilities than sole ownership.

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