Pets can make a mess of college student’s plans

Sean Joseph

The pound is overflowing with dogs, but the dog warden said students should reconsider saving the world one dog at a time and stick to their studies.

“College students are some of the worst pet owners I have ever seen in my life,” said Beverly Kirkhart, Portage County dog warden.

The Portage County Pound receives more than 1,200 stray, abandoned and runaway dogs every year, Kirkhart said. In 2004, the pound had 335 dogs successfully adopted, returned 225 to their owners, gave 146 to rescue groups and euthanized 583.

Kirkhart said she would encourage people to adopt dogs from the pound instead of pet stores because, “our dogs are going to die.” But she said the pound has received too many dogs that have been abandoned by college students when they go home for the summer and would not encourage full-time students to adopt a dog.

“We always find dogs that students have left on the streets to be hit by cars or starve to death,” Kirkhart said.

People need to be more responsible when they adopt a dog, Kirkhart said. They need to realize a dog is a 10- to 15-year commitment.

Melissa Russell, junior intervention specialist major, did not listen to people who told her she did not have time to take care of a dog.

“The responsibilities weren’t really something I put a lot of time into,” Russell said. “I just knew my dog would have been killed if I didn’t adopt him.”

Several shelters told her she didn’t have the means to adopt a dog, Russell said. They rejected her when she told them she was a student and showed them an apartment lease that prohibited pets.

She finally adopted a dog from the Medina County Pound, Russell said.

Pounds don’t restrict anyone from adopting a dog. Because they are government facilities, they cannot turn any dog away and have to euthanize after they reach capacity, Kirkhart said. The Portage County Pound does not turn anyone down unless they have prior convictions for animal cruelty.

People must pay a $50 adoption fee at the pound, which includes spaying or neutering the animal, vaccinations and dog tags, Kirkhart said.

Pets Unlimited, a locally owned pet store on Water Street in downtown Kent, doesn’t have any adoption restrictions either, co-owner Toshia Bachtel said. They ask for little more than the price of the dog, which typically runs over $400 depending on the breed.

Price is only one difference between adopting an animal from the pound or a pet store.

The pound does not know where most of its dogs come from, Kirkhart said.

“All we can tell people is how the animal has behaved in the short period of time it has been here,” Kirkhart said.

When Russell found the dog she adopted, she was told it was less than a year old and that the pound did not know what type of breed it was, she said. However, at the vet she was told it was older than five and probably a beagle and springer spaniel mix.

Russell said she did not consider buying a dog from a pet store because they were too expensive.

“There are so many dogs that need to be adopted,” Russell said. “Why pay hundreds of dollars for one when you can get one for a fraction of that at the pound?”

Tim McCarthy, a former employee of the Animal Protection League, is an independent animal rescuer who said there are a lot of ethical issues people don’t usually think about before adopting a dog.

Owning a purebred dog has become a status symbol, which has made pet stores popular, McCarthy said, as he stroked Mimi, his mixed dog with a deformed leg.

Kirkhart agreed and said it is a lot harder to find homes for mixed breeds as well as older dogs.

“As long as people keep the mentality that animals are merchandise, owning a purebred dog will be just like owning fine furniture,” McCarthy said. “All sorts of birth defects occur in purebred dogs because the blood line keeps getting narrower. The healthiest animals are mutts.”

No matter what type of breed or mix, Bachtel agreed dogs might be too big of a responsibility for someone in college. Fish or rodents may be more realistic pets for students.

Russell said she fully plans to keep her dog, but it will take a lot of effort. Keeping the apartment clean, the dog quiet, healthy and happy, she said, takes more than anticipated.

Contact off-campus reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].