Approximately 6.5 million pets enter animal shelters annually in the United States. When someone adopts one of these pets, they can not only change the animal’s life, but also bring joy, companionship, and responsibility into their own life.
For students in the right situation, “taking responsibility for a pet is a great idea,” said Jessica Holt, assistant professor of agricultural communication at the University of Georgia.
Having a pet, Holt said, is “a great opportunity for students to think beyond themselves, while being mindful and thinking within their means.”
One student who recently adopted a pet is sophomore management student Taylor Bailey. Billy adopted an eight-year-old German Shepherd named Joey from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. For Bailey, adopting Joy gave her an excuse to move out of her home while also being responsible in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
November was National Pet Adoption Month, founded by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. On average, senior dogs have a 25% adoption rate, versus a 60% adoption rate for younger dogs and puppies, according to statistics from the ASPCA.
Bailey said she thought she made the right decision to adopt a large dog instead of a smaller one, because a puppy seems to do 10 times as much work as an older dog.
“Puppies are a lot of work, they really are,” said Holt. “I work a lot on grooming and training your animals young, but there is something to be said for older dogs being a little calmer.”
Political science chair Kayla Miller has turned to her new pet for companionship in the past few months. Miller adopted Sasha, a three-year-old Australian Shepherd from the Australian Shepherd Association.
“Having a dog made me able to get out of bed in the morning because I had someone else to take care of him other than myself,” said Miller.
In this way, Sasha greatly helped Miller’s mental health.
“When you’re working from home and taking your classes online, and not leaving the house for days at a time, it’s easy to get depressed and sad,” said Miller. “Having Sasha around has helped my mental health tremendously.”
However, the added responsibility of a pet who is completely dependent on its owner is scary or unrealistic for some. For students who aren’t ready for the years of commitment that come with pet ownership but still love the company of a pet, Holt recommends volunteering at local animal shelters or fostering animals from places like the Athens-area Humane Society.
“Pets are one of the things that really allow you to not think so much about yourself,” Holt said. “We worry so much about all the burdens we carry around, and animals have a really great way of reminding us that we’re not the only important thing out there and we’re not the most important thing in the world.”