College students adopt puppies, kittens without knowing responsibility involved
A trip to the animal shelter is difficult to finish without taking home a dog or cat.
In Mount Pleasant, students can venture to Isabella County Humane Animal Treatment Society, 1105 S. Isabella Road. The animal shelter houses 140 cats and upwards of 40 dogs at any given time. Volunteers and employees keep busy caring for numerous animals, but puppies and kittens are few and far between.
Humane Animal Treatment Society staff member and Mount Pleasant senior Amanda Tillotson said puppies typically stay at the shelter only as long as they have to be held to receive medical treatment. After that, they’re adopted out quickly.
Tillotson said Friday three puppies went up for adoption, and all three were adopted that very same day.
“Everyone wants a puppy, because they’re cute and adorable,” she said.
Assistant Feline Supervisor Autumn Scott said although many people have good intentions when adopting from the shelter, many are also irresponsible.
“It’s sad. They’re investing in a life; it’s not a toy they can return,” Scott said. “You’re their family; all they know is you.”
Like with puppies, feline care specialist Mary Anne Tompkins said people are drawn to kittens because of the cuteness factor. However, many aspects play into the suitability between a pet owner and a cat, and many people have unrealistic expectations when adopting from the shelter.
Cats, like humans, have distinct personalities. When adopting a kitten, its personality type is not apparent, Tompkins said. People need to see past an animal’s size and appearance when adopting.
“If you can look beyond color, you can get something better for your match,” Tompkins said. “You’re getting an imperfect pet because of where they came from. An adult would be better suited, because they know where they came from.”
She said if students aren’t sure if they’re ready for the lasting commitment of an animal but still want the companionship of a pet, then they can help by fostering kittens.
Tompkins said people need to do their homework before adopting an animal and realize they could have their cat for the next 20 years.
“Know what you’re getting into,” she said. “Don’t make a rash decision.”
Aside from looks, canine care specialist Zach Patton said many people hold the belief a puppy will be easier to train to their needs than an adult dog, who is already trained a certain way.
However, Tillotson said that’s not necessarily the case. Rather, many people who adopt puppies don’t realize the amount of work and the hours that go into training them.
“A puppy is like having a baby; it’s really not an ideal situation,” Tillotson said.
Being an unprepared pet owner is one of the main reasons innocent animals end up back at the shelter, Tillotson said.
“They don’t necessarily do anything wrong,” HATS volunteer Jennifer Souva said. “It’s not their fault.”
Patton said dogs, like humans, experience emotional and psychological trauma when their owners neglect them.
“It’s something they have for the rest of their life,” he said. “We do our best to make them as comfortable as possible.”
Patton said it’s not just college students returning animals to the shelter; unprepared pet owners range from college students to grown adults.
“There isn’t a set demographic that is irresponsible,” he said. “It’s all over the place.”
Returned even more often than dogs, are cats, Tillotson said. However, with cats, training typically isn’t the problem.
Tompkins said many people don’t think about the long-term commitment when adopting an animal. She said it’s common for students to adopt a kitten and return the animal to the shelter when it’s a grown cat and they realize they can’t take it with them when they leave college.
Tompkins said 15 to 20 percent of the kittens and cats adopted out of the shelter are later brought back. That number is even higher when counting cats given to the shelter who were adopted elsewhere first.
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