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Overloaded college students turn to Facebook to give away pets

When students strapped for time and cash get dogs, this is what can happen.


Molly Stier


Posted on Mar 5, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:19 am CDT

College students do too much. They’re in a unique part of their lives— hopping from class to class, balancing internships and part-time jobs. They have an infinite amount of student organizations at their fingertips and somehow find time to live by a social calendar. On top of all these commitments, the fact that some of them can handle owning a pet is a mystery. 

The truth is many find out they can’t. But that doesn’t stop the romantic idea from forming. A roommate speaks the thought into the air, it gets momentum, and becomes a doable possibility in everyone’s heads—”I can totally skip class to walk the dog so he doesn’t chew up my shoes again,” or “sure, I can eat Ramen to afford a trip to the vet this month.” 

They often end up at an animal shelter, having made a pact on the car ride there that they wouldn’t walk out with a pet. Before they know it, they’re on their way home with the furriest member of their tiny, student apartment household.

University of Texas student Kendal Tieu and her three roommates found themselves in a similar situation in October when they heard about a free adoption weekend at the Humane Society in Austin, Texas.

“I wanted one but I knew realistically it wasn’t a good idea. It was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Tieu told the Daily Dot.  

Once they set eyes on a three-month-old black lab pup named Maggie, they were sold.

But after a couple of weeks of Maggie’s messes and pent-up energy from not being able to go outside—due to their complex’s policy barring them from owning pets and the puppy’s lack of a parvo vaccine—the roommates were forced into a corner.

“Someone would message the group and they would be really upset and you could tell they would be really upset over what Maggie did or having her,” Tieu said. “So someone was like, ‘Well we should really sit down and talk about it.’”

The group decided it would be best to return the dog to the Humane Society. They tearfully drove Maggie back that afternoon.

Tieu and her roommates are hardly the only students who have experienced such a predicament. Countless pet postings are shared on UT Pets, a Facebook page that connects pet lovers and owners who attend the University of Texas. The group features everything from pet-raising tips, veterinary care suggestions, and cute pictures of animals. Students who find themselves incapable of keeping a pet turn to the page to post informal adoption notices, often shaking up this animal-protective community.

Just today, UT Pets is ripe with 423 postings for pets—the majority of them students needing to give away an animal. (Some are pet supplies on sale.)

“Even if these people were irresponsible, they’re going to have to give up the pet somehow,” said Kelsie Grimes, founder and administrator of UT Pets. “I would rather have it go to a responsible UT student than just go to a shelter where you never know what’s going to happen to it.”

It’s not hard to be seduced by the benefits of owning a pet. Having a furry pal to take on refreshing walks has a therapeutic effect on your average, stressed college kid. Those study breaks go a long way to maintaining mental health and wellness. When tragedy strikes, pets are a useful friend to have around. Eighteen percent of college students reported that their pet helped them through a difficult time, according to a research study at Ohio State University. The top reason students cited as being the most useful part of owning a pet is that it helps counter loneliness.

University of Texas sophomore Madison Holloway feels the same way about her puppy.

“When I come home and I’m having a bad day or I’ve just bombed a test and I walk in through the door, he’s just so happy that I’m back.” Holloway said. “He doesn’t even care. He just wants to cuddle and play. It’s kind of the best thing ever, having something unconditionally love you.”

Having a lighter schedule than usual this semester, she determined she would have the time necessary for raising a puppy. At the end of Christmas break, Holloway met Finn, a six-week-old Australian shepherd puppy, who is now an 11-week-old Instagram celebrity.

“We made him an Instagram and we started taking him places around campus and taking cool pictures of him and then posting it to it,” Holloway said. A few weeks and 34 photos later, Finn garnered a 2,215-person following. “All these students are watching Finn grow up online.”

Holloway has nailed the balance between student life and being a pet parent, budgeting an extra $150 every month and planning breaks throughout her day to come home and check on Finn. 

If you have to regularly balance a busy schedule and are considering owning a pet, keep these warnings in mind:

“If you have a giant block schedule—don’t get a puppy. It won’t work out well for him,” Holloway said. “He’ll be unhappy, he won’t get enough exercise and everything.”

It’s also helpful to research the breed ahead of time, according to Holloway. If you’re an active person, it’s safe to get an active dog. If not, then you’ll risk not being able to keep up with your dog’s exercising needs. 

But it’s not all about considering the pet. After owning Maggie as a college student, Tieu said research and communication between people sharing a space is the big problem students don’t consider. 

“If you live with roommates you guys should talk it out more,” Tieu said. “Even if you’re just by yourself, if you’ve never had a dog before or maybe you’ve had a dog but your parents mainly took care of it, you should do more research beforehand just so you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

Photo via University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Sciences/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Mar 5, 2016, 2:06 pm CST