May 082008
Authors: Shannon Hurley

As classes end and leases expire, dogs and cats in Fort Collins are taking a backseat to many college students’ vacation and summer job plans leaving domestic pets abandoned with little or no care on the streets and in vacant rentals.

Local animal rescue organizations are left with the burden of caring for and finding homes for these forgotten pets, which is especially difficult for no-kill, small capacity rescues, such as the Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Animal House Rescue & Grooming.

“Of the 169 cats that we’ve taken in since January 11, 40 percent were stray or abandoned,” said Sarah Swanty of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue. “We get a lot people that call saying we had a bunch of college students living next door, and they’ve all moved out and left their cat or cats behind. . We don’t hear that any other time.”

And while larger-capacity animal shelters, such as the Larimer Humane Society, see a steady flow of pet in-take year-round and don’t see an increase at the end of the semester, they too witness the effects of irresponsible student pet owners.

In 2007, the Larimer Humane Society took in 4,144 cats and kittens, of which 2,619 were strays as well as 3,920 dogs and puppies, of which 2,661 were strays.

And while the shelter does not keep specific record of student or employment status for pet ownership, Cary Rentola of the Larimer Humane Society says they encourage younger pet owners to plan ahead and realize the responsibility that they will be taking on as an owner of a pet who can live anywhere from the teens to the twenties.

“A lot of students may not know where they are going to be living in a year,” Rentola said. “That’s a time in your life when things can change quickly, and things can change a lot.”

Lack of future planning is one of the primary reasons local animal shelters are seeing abandoned or surrendered pets. Animal House Rescue & Grooming, which has only been open since last July, witnessed this in their first couple of months in operation.

“We got a ton of calls in from college students wanting to bring their dogs in because they are moving or just haven’t planned ahead,” said Ali Eccleston of Animal House Rescue & Grooming.

The dog rescue has implemented a stringent adoption process, which requires adopters to be 21 to ensure responsible owners are taking home pets from their shelter.

“We do reference checks and there is a pretty intensive interview process,” Eccleston said. “We want to make sure these dogs just don’t keep getting passed around.”

Domesticated animals cannot survive on their own or in the wild, and the consequences of pet abandonment are costly not only to the forgotten animals, but also to the rescue, which must become responsible for animals’ care.

“(Students) need to contact the Humane Society and do the right thing,” Rentola said. “Which is surrender the animal over to us so it is going to be cared for and not just left alone in an apartment or a house somewhere without receiving the proper care because we never know when they might be discovered.”

All three local animal rescue organizations encourage students to volunteer their time at a shelter or as a foster home for an animal instead of taking on the full responsibility of pet ownership and to test the waters during such a hectic time in young adults’ lives.

Students can “help us make a difference without committing to the lives of these pets,” Rentola said, “We encourage people to wait until they meet their match.”

A situation that is beneficial both for students and in-need animal rescues with little resources.

Staff writer Shannon Hurley can be reached at

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