By Abby Chapman
The American Veterinary Medical Association says on its website: “Owning a pet is a privilege that brings us great rewards.” But that privilege and those rewards come with a large responsibility that must be considered.
Izzy Puthoff, a fourth-year University of Georgia marketing major, has a pet dog named Murphy. “His well-being is incredibly important to me and I know raising an animal in college requires such sacrifices,” she said.
Murphy, a 10-year-old lab mix, has been in her family since he was a little under a year old when he was rescued in Houston, Texas.
“For the first time this year he is living with me in Athens, and it has definitely been an adjustment having to schedule around his care,” Puthoff said.
For students like Puthoff and her peers who own pets, it is important to consider how animals can blend into the balance of classwork, roommates and budgets. Especially, the budgets. For example, a recent Forbes articled reported that 42% of pet owners can not cover unexpected vet bills, placing both the animals’ health and the owners’ financial status at risk.
Michael Alexander, the store manager at PetSense, a pet store, in Athens, Georgia, explained that simple expenses can add up to make pets be more expensive than many anticipate.
Alexander used the example of start-up expenses for a cat to illustrate his point.
“Between the cat box, cat litter, then your scoops to match that, that’ll probably run $200,” he said. “A cat bed can be $33.99, plus you want to get them some toys to keep them busy, which can be anywhere from $5 to $20, weekly food may be around $25 to $30.”
Credit.com, a website featuring financial tips and advice, suggested that prospective pet owners consider the cost of pet ownership into two categories: initial costs and ongoing. The initial costs includes such things as the adoption fees, vaccinations and start-up supplies. The ongoing costs include food, vet bills, grooming and pet sitters.
“Your daily (cost) is going to add up,” Alexander said. “Really once you give the cats the shots and everything you need from the vet, everything is pretty much set unless you have a medical emergency.”
Nevertheless, the Credit.com article estimated the first year of owning a dog in 2022 would cost between $1,500 and $5,000 depending on the type of breed. The article advised anyone getting a dog to also consider the lifetime cost of the pet. With a typical dog living an average of 12 years, the total cost of ownership would be $18,000 to $60,000 based in today’s dollars.
Besides costs, having a pet usually requires spending a lot of time and effort to make sure that the animal is healthy and happy.
According to the American Kennel Club, a dog should not be spending more than 6-8 hours alone a day without someone present to care and spend physical time with them. For a student who may have back-to-back classes all day long, it may not be feasible to visit their pet as often as they should. This is another important consideration to keep in mind when deciding to bring any sort of animal to college.
If it is not possible for a college student to arrange their schedule according to their pet’s needs, the American Kennel Club recommends looking into doggy daycare services, investing in a dog walker, or even reaching out to friends or neighbors to check on your dog during this period of alone time.
Abby Chapman is a journalism student at the University of Georgia