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The problem with pets

BY ASHLEY OERMAN | NOVEMBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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Brittany’s cat is a violation.

The UI junior lives in an apartment that does not allow animals — and if her landlord finds out, she could face a hefty fine.

However, if she was forced to relocate her tiger-striped pet, she said, she would not give her to a shelter.

But it seems this is a common option for many other students.

The Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center sees an increase in the number of animals admitted from May to September, when students are moving in and out of Iowa City, said Misha Goodman, the director of animal services.

“People are moving into places where they can no longer have an animal or they have life changes that won’t allow them to take care of one,” she said.

Although this increase can in part be explained by animal population growth during these months, students adopting animals they are not prepared to take care of is an important factor in the jump as well, Goodman said.

Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey said leaving animals behind is a citywide problem not unique to students.

In an interview with USA Today, Bailey said she was worried about the trend carrying over to the potential ordinance allowing residents to keep chickens, noting it could lead to the birds being abandoned.

However, City Councilor Mike Wright said he believes strict requirements will prevent that from happening.

“It’s going to be much more difficult to get a chicken than a cat,” he said.

Students often find it tempting to buy an animal, even when it’s against their apartment, residence hall, or house contract. And many times, they end up getting caught.

“It happens all the time,” Goodman said. “Students will get an animal knowing that their landlord doesn’t allow it, and then the landlord finds out.”

That is exactly what happened to 21-year-old Kirkwood Community College student Alex Willert in November 2008.

“He was just the right dog, so I thought I would get him anyways,” he said about Duke, his purebred boxer.

“He’s a very intelligent dog,” Willert said. “He knows how to open doors.”

Before adopting Duke, he asked his neighbors if they would accept his newest roommate to be sure they would not notify his landlord.

“They were all cool with it,” Willert said.

Willert also took other measures to avoid being caught, including having someone watch his dog at night if he was gone.

Unfortunately, Willert’s landlord caught him when he came to repair a sink and saw dog bowls in his apartment. As a result, Willert sent Duke to Willert’s family, in Bloomingdale, Ill., for the remainder of the year.

Greg Thompson, the manager of Residence Life hall operations, said this situation also occurs in the residence halls.

“We’ve had situations with dogs, cats, lizards, pretty much anything students might like to have,” Thompson said.

Thompson said this problem is pretty rare, occurring about one to two times per year, and it is handled by the residence-hall staff. Typically, they ask the student to make arrangements for the animal to be sent off campus or to a kennel. Thompson noted animal control would only be called if the student had no means to resolve the situation.

Goodman said she advises students to think seriously before adopting an animal.

“Don’t make a split-second decision just because something is cute,” Goodman said. “Consider how long you will be able to take care of that animal.”


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