When Michael Lincoln prepared for football games this fall, his routine was a little different from his teammates. Before he could pack up his bags and head off to an away game, he had to find someone to feed and play with Joel while he was gone.
Joel is Lincoln’s 14-month old black lab, an extra responsibility of Lincoln’s since July of last year. Lincoln knew what he was getting in to when he decided he wanted a dog, but many college students do not, which leads to more dogs being given up to pet shelters.
If students do not do their research beforehand to learn what to expect, they shouldn’t own a dog.
Last summer, Lincoln knew he was going to be living off-campus during the fall, so he knew he’d have space for a dog.
Even though Joel hasn’t been sick enough to require many vet visits, Lincoln said he already knows how much money it takes to care for a dog.
“He’s definitely expensive. I just bought a 32-pound bag of food for him for $30,” Lincoln said.
That’s just for food. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the first year of dog ownership can cost between $1,314 and $1,843. Those figures include spaying/neutering, training and other costs. After the first year, the cost decreases to $580 to $875.
Most college students struggle to make ends meet as it is, between tuition, rent and groceries. Adding an extra $1,000 on top of all those costs just doesn’t seem logical for any student still in school.
Students also don’t have the time necessary to care for a dog.
Robbin Pierce, a certified dog trainer at Lucky-E Kennel in Illinois, explained dogs are pack animals, so they want to be in a pack or surrounded by people. When students are in class, at practice or going out frequently, that takes valuable time away from the dog.
“If they’re left alone for a long time and if they aren’t contained properly, they can be destructive,” she said.
Lincoln said he makes sure Joel gets outside enough, whether it’s at a baseball game or playing in their front yard.
While Lincoln knows he’ll have Joel for life, many owners give up their dogs because they can’t handle owning a pet.
A study by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) found that 37 percent of dogs who were given up were only owned from seven months to one year. The study also found some of the reasons for giving up a pet included the cost of maintenance, inadequate facilities and not having time.
Pierce said many owners simply don’t think about what they’re getting into before buying a dog.
“They don’t research what a breed’s energy level is, its exercise needs or its temperament,” she explained. “Dogs are a commitment, but a lot of people don’t see them as one.”
With the internet readily available to almost everyone, there is no excuse for a prospective pet owner not to know what to expect when owning a pet.
Students should reflect and seriously question whether they have the time and resources to properly take care of a dog while they’re at school. They aren’t just something to show off on Instagram or to friends.
Dogs are a member of the family.