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Buying a dog is buying a 10+ year responsibility.

Despite sounding like every desperate six-year-old’s worst enemy — their parents — it has to be said: Now isn’t the time for a pet. So many people want to stroll into a shelter and pay for their new best friend, but it’s more complicated than that.

The excitement of having a new furry friend often overshadows the many reasons why people should wait to make this big decision. It doesn’t help that students living off campus — often their first time living without adult supervision — now have a kind of freedom they’ve never come close to experiencing before. But despite this newfound ability and ease in which a student could purchase a pet to bring home, it shouldn’t be done.

Sure, there’s nothing quite like the joy of taking a walk on the quad and running into someone with a puppy, but what that person actually has on the end of that leash is a 10+ year commitment. Most college students have no idea where exactly they’ll be in 10 years and don’t know if they plan to be a homeowner by then. If not, each place a person rents would have to be animal-friendly thanks to their college-aged decision, and this could change someone’s chances of living in a more desirable location, like somewhere with a shorter commute to work.

Not to mention, a pet costs both time and money. College students often complain about being broke, but owning an animal could make this even more of a reality — one where “broke” actually means no more coffee-runs. If someone’s going to give their pet the life they deserve, they need to be able to actually afford them. This means food, treats, toys and more. Plus, students would have to worry about enrollment dates even more than usual, making sure they can schedule their classes in a way that allows them to go home and take care of their animal if need be. And staying out all night is another no-go because an animal needs their owner to be home in the morning to feed and take care of them.

Another thing that college students might not be thinking about when they impulsively purchase a pet is the fact that this animal will tie up any plans in the future. Spontaneity will have to be a thing of the past because an animal sticks to a schedule. This means no random and exciting day-trips to the beach, no deciding to sleep over at a friend’s house on a whim and no plans of any kind that will put a pet’s well-being in jeopardy. Everything a person does will have to be with this animal firmly in mind, meaning that before taking time off work, before booking a hotel and before saving up gas-money, a pet owner must make sure there’s someone available to take care of their pet while they’re away.

If anyone can truly call themselves a pet lover, then they should know when it’s best to adopt a pet. It’s irresponsible for a college student to take away an animal’s chance at a better home by adopting them only to keep them in a cramped apartment with three other roommates who likely don’t want to be responsible for a pet that isn’t theirs. Even worse, students who adopt only to then realize that an animal is indeed too much responsibility often end up dropping their pet back off at the shelter. An animal doesn’t have the capacity to understand why this must be done, and will only know that they’re suddenly in a strange, new place without the person they’ve come to love and depend on.

At the very least, if a college student decides to adopt an animal, they must be 100% sure and not acting on a whim.

Jillian Carey is a freshman media arts and design major. Contact Jillian at careyjc@dukes.jmu.edu.