For most students, summer break means less work. For animal shelters, it usually means the complete opposite.
Many of the volunteers at animal shelters like the Humane Society of North Central Florida and Alachua County Animal Resources are college students. When these students leave Gainesville, there are less people to foster and adopt.
Sometimes, these students surrender the pets they adopted over the school year because they can’t bring them to their parent’s houses.
These trends are very upsetting to UF sophomore Curtis Greene.
People get carried away in the excitement of getting a pet. Still, he believes that having a pet is a commitment, and people need to be more aware of that when they decide to adopt.
“I can understand it, but it’s also kind of sad to see because I mean, that’s just another member of your family essentially, that you’re leaving behind,” he said.
Greene is studying wildlife ecology and conservation on the pre-vet track. Working closely with animals, he sees how being put in these kinds of situations can be harmful.
“You have to understand as a pet owner that your pet has emotions, too,” he said. “And so you have to be able to work around that and work to understand that as well.”
Dhyana O’Driscoll is the owner of Angel Whispurrz Cat Rescue, and she sees this issue occur with some of the students who adopt from her.
Many students who grow up without a pet will get one when they move away. However, they forget about breaks. She thinks this pattern is one reason why there is also an increase in stray animals over the summer.
“Sometimes they’ll just put those cats or dogs out on the street and then go home for break,” she said.
If a student is planning on fostering or adopting from Angel Whispurrz, she requires parental permission so the pet won’t be left out on the street or returned to a shelter if that student cannot take them home for the summer.
O’Driscoll said she has seen other unfortunate trends.
Jill Davis, CEO of Animals Helping Humans Humans Helping Animals, sees them too.
Davis also works at Dogs Rule, a boarding and rescue service for dogs. She said that she has seen a large number of people, and not just college students, surrendering their pets since December.
“We’re seeing an influx, I feel, this year that holds precedent over the past 10 years,” she said. “I don’t know why that is, but I feel like a lot of people have been giving up on their dogs.”
Though she is not completely sure why this influx of surrenders is happening, she believes it has something to do with behavior. Davis works in behavioral training, and many people give up on their pet when they become more difficult to control.
Another reason people give up their pet is because of loss of housing.
“They can’t even take care of themselves so it is understandable that they can’t take care of a dog,” Davis said.
As shelters get swamped, Davis and other animal rescues hope to see more people stepping up to foster and make the necessary changes to be fully prepared to keep their pets.