The price of a pooch: Footing the bill for college pets

Mikala Lugen

After a long day of attending classes and working her part-time job, Bridget Looney walks into her apartment and is greeted with slobbery kisses from her newest puppy, Bennie.

Looney, a junior exercise science major, got her puppy in November and is loving the responsibility. Looney budgets to buy her mutt puppy chow every four to five weeks, and she searches Amazon for cheap dog toys.

“It’s great having my dog around. She’s such a stress reliever. After a long day of work and classes, I get to come home to kisses,” Looney said.

Being a full-time college student is stressful, and students often seek pet ownership to subside stress and loneliness. Having a pet in college can be very beneficial to a student’s health, but what is the real cost of having one?

Having an animal with endless love toward you may seem beneficial, but there are a lot of expenses and responsibilities busy college students can overlook.

“It’s more time-consuming than anything,” Looney said. “You have to consider them in every decision you make. How much money you spend and the time you spend out of the house. It’s kind of like having a child.”

In 2015, the United States spent $60.28 billion on pets. This includes total expenses of food, supplies, medicine, veterinary care and services, such as grooming, according to the American Pet Products Association.

“There are things you have to do and then depending on your budget, there are things that are optional,” Emily Smith, a senior nursing major, said. “Flea protection, veterinary trips and food are all necessary expenses you have to fit in your budget.”

Su Lindsey, veterinary assistant at Brimfield Veterinarian, said she believes that people should read about different breeds of dogs or cats when considering getting one.

“Pets are costly,” Lindsey said. “Students should stay educated about the commitments owning an animal takes.”

Lindsey said it’s important to get the best affordable food for a pet. She noted that cheap brands with added fillers don’t provide nutrients and are bad for a pet’s health. Buying a brand that is affordable, has no fillers and is agreeable with the pet’s system is the best way to go.

“My old dog was gluten intolerant and I had to buy a special brand of dog food that was healthy for her to eat. It was twice as much money as a regular brand, but it was a necessary expense,” Smith said.

When thinking about saving money and owning a pet, Debbie Aikens, manager of Stow Kent Animal Hospital, said she believes students should not cut corners when dealing with their animal’s health.

“There are low-cost clinics that provide basic vaccines and also offer spays and neuters services,” Aikens said. “These clinics are usually not equipped to handle illnesses or offer necessary lab testing to diagnose them.”

Aikens said pet owners go to low-cost clinics trying to save money, but end up spending more in the future because they didn’t get the full amount of help and care the pet needed in the first place.

“Owning a pet is like having a child,” Aikens said. “$200 a year is a good estimate to keep up on vaccines, monitor the aging process of a pet and control parasites.”

The United States spent $5.41 billion on pet grooming, according to the American Pet Products Association. Grooming your pet is very important to maintain the animal’s health. To save money, students can buy pet shampoo and groom their pet at home instead of paying extra money for a groomer.

Full-time college students have a busy schedule and are often out of the house for hours at a time. When considering adding a furry friend to your life, take into account how many hours a day you are out of the house.

“When I got my first dog in November, I had to buy a $150 crate to keep him in during the day,” Kyle O’Donnell, a junior computer information systems major, said. “I take him outside immediately when I get home from classes. He’s great, but I spend a decent amount of money on him each month.”

Depending on where you live, some apartments have rules and even forbid pets. You may be required to pay a one-time pet down payment and an additional monthly expense when keeping an animal in your apartment.

“When I moved into University Oaks, they required a $300 down payment for my dog, and a $30 monthly charge for keeping him in my apartment,” Jamie Davis, a junior human development and family studies major, said.

About 6,000 Kent State students live in an on-campus dorm, according to the college’s facts and figures. These students do not have the option to keep a pet in their dorm, besides fish.

Kimberly Morgan, a freshman exploratory major, said she is affected by this policy.

“I have two cocker spaniels at home that I grew up (with) since I could remember. I miss them every day,” Morgan said. “I live a couple hours away, so since I don’t visit home often, I always make sure to spend time with my pups when I do go home.”

With all the additional responsibilities and expenses, having a pet while in college can be very beneficial. College students who own a pet can see an increase in their emotional and psychological health, according to USA Today College.

“Dogs are seen as less judgmental than humans,” Kathryn Kerns, a psychology professor, said. “Studies have shown that when faced with a stressful situation, people have a better mood and are less physiologically aroused in the situation when they do a task with a dog present.”

Mikala Lugen is the student finance reporter, contact her at [email protected].