The Daily Gamecock

Column: College students should adopt, foster pets from local rescues

<p>Voltorb, a tabby cat, stands up to go to a nearby porch at City of Columbia Animal Services.</p>

Voltorb, a tabby cat, stands up to go to a nearby porch at City of Columbia Animal Services.

College students looking to adopt pets should foster or rescue from local animal shelters, helping to reduce the total number of homeless pets nationwide and giving individual animals the opportunity for better lives.

If you’ve had a pet, you understand the incredible bond that’s shared with, for example, a family dog or cat. Pets were a big part of many of our upbringings. In many ways, they were an integral part of our childhoods and shaped how we saw the world as kids.

Edolie, a domestic shorthair kitten at City of Columbia Animal Services, looks out from his kennel on Sept. 24, 2020.

For college students, a similar bond with a dog, cat or other pet could be just as, or even more, meaningful. Pets provide companionship and comfort and encourage responsibility, accountability and even physical exercise. Owning a pet can have beneficial effects on personal health.

In a 2016 survey of pet owners, The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) found that 74% of respondents reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. Additionally, 54% of respondents reported physical health improvements from pet ownership, meaning that “the majority of pet owners have personal experience with the health benefits of pets.”

College students are among the age demographic that reports the most symptoms of anxiety and depression, so it’s easy to see how having a loving and playful friend around could make things a little easier. If you’re looking to get a pet, though, it’s important to not only think about what they can do for us, but also what we can do for them. The best way to do so is to rescue or foster instead of buying from a pet store.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that around 6.5 million animals enter U.S. animal shelters every year. They also report that approximately 1.5 million shelter pets are euthanized each year. It’s called rescuing for a reason – many of the animals that enter shelters each year will eventually be euthanized, so rescuing from a local shelter is the best way to give an animal another shot at a happy life. 

Adopting from a rescue organization or shelter is also more ethical than buying from a pet store or a breeder. Both are known to sometimes source their animals from puppy mills, which The Humane Society of the United States defines as “an inhumane high-volume dog breeding facility that churns out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers.” Adopting from a shelter or rescue organization ensures that your pet doesn’t come from a puppy mill or similar facility, while discouraging their use and continuation by lowering their profits and volume. 

A dog sits in his kennel at the City of Columbia Animal Services on Sept. 24, 2020.  

Fostering an animal is a great idea, too, especially if you know you can’t commit to adopting a pet forever. Fostering an animal that would otherwise be euthanized gives them a new chance at life. At the very least, it lengthens the time until they’re eventually euthanized, but in the meantime offers a loving temporary home, better care, important socialization and opportunities to be adopted permanently by another owner. 

Pawmetto Lifeline, a local organization dedicated to creating a no-kill community in the Midlands, reports that “In 2008, more than 23,000 companion animals entered the municipal animal shelters in Richland and Lexington counties, however, more than 19,000 were euthanized.” While the proportion of shelter animals euthanized nationally has since decreased, college students adopting from an organization like Pawmetto Lifeline could put a huge dent in the still-concerning number of companion pets being euthanized annually. 

As friends, companions and family members, pets offer us so much fun, meaning and love. We owe it to our pets to reciprocate all the love and respect. For college students, that means rescuing or fostering – giving a caring home and a new chance at life to an animal that otherwise would have been killed.