By Kathrin Koebke
Rhodes students drop off five to eight dogs at the SPCA each month. It is not the most appealing of places, but it will have to do for the next couple of months or at least until someone else adopts them. Students either decide they can no longer afford their pets, or realise that the dog does not serve the purpose of protecting its owner’s property.
Seeing that digs break-ins occur frequently in Grahamstown, it is not surprising that students, in addition to having alarm systems, fake cameras and even rude signs, adopt dogs from the SPCA in the hope that they too will scare off the burglars. However, this doesn’t apply to all students, and some will either buy or adopt a dog simply because they miss their animals back home, are animal-crazy or just want something new.
But what happens when the novelty wears off, the price of pet food begins to lighten your wallet, the vet bill is more than your rent and the poo begins to pile up in the backyard? Lindsey Luppnow, proud owner of a Jack Russell puppy, stresses that students don’t take into consideration the responsibility of owning a pet. “Students don’t think of [pets] as long-term investments and are not prepared for the expenses,” she said.
In addition to this, many students take their dogs back to the SPCA when they graduate from Rhodes, said Erik Dingana, who works for the SPCA in Grahamstown.
Kate Townshend, president of Rhodes Organization for Animal Rights (ROAR), suggests that those who miss their pets at home or long for animal company, should pay a visit to the local SPCA instead of buying their own. Alternatively, if they want a pet for themselves, Townshend suggests buying a pet that does not have a long-term life expectancy, is inexpensive and easy to take care for. This would include pets like fish, birds and hamsters.
If a student is seeking a pet for safety reasons, they should realize that dogs are a life-long commitment. “Most students don’t think far enough into the future when getting a pet,” said Townshend. Students should also realize that if they are getting a dog for safety reasons, most of the pets from the SPCA are adults already and would be difficult to train. Added to that, the dog would more than likely (even if it was adopted as a puppy) struggle to be trained because of the large number of students living in the digs as the dog is unable to differentiate between different owners’ commands.
Another problem with owning a pet is the trouble that arises when students go home for the holidays. While most students take their pets home, others can either pay for their pets to board at the SPCA or place them in the local kennels for the duration of the holidays. Most students don’t realise that there are private training lessons available for their animals in Grahamstown and students can find out about training lessons and kennels from their local vet.
While it’s understandable that students are seeking animal companionship or looking for the sense of security a huge-ass dog can provide, they should realize that animals do come with responsibility and are not a piece of clothing that can be exchanged in seven days.