Gage’s apprehension comes for two reasons: the pet fee for her living arrangement is $300 down with an additional $25 a month, and her actions have parental approval.
“I was like, ‘So, Mom, are you okay with me sneaking this dog in?’” Gage said, “And she’s like ‘Yeah, if you get caught just tell them she was visiting.’”
Some students worry that pet owners at UNC may be shirking pet-related duties far more harmful than Gage’s dodging of the pet fee. Senior Juhi Patel, who regularly volunteers at the Orange County Animal Shelter, says that she has seen neglect happen from student pet owners.
“I’d say they are pretty irresponsible and not ready to have a pet. A lot of them think that they can balance school with having a pet and they think they can take on that responsibility,” Patel said. “And it’s weird because a good amount of my friends that have pets are also athletes at UNC, which doesn’t make sense to me because they literally have no time to take care of their pet at all.”
Junior and dog owner Gentry Fitch considers dog ownership to be a serious responsibility and is taking a semester off to raise his dog.
“I wasn’t going to get a dog if I didn’t have enough time to do it justice," Fitch said. "And with having a semester off and a lot of time flexibility, I’m able to actually give the dog what it deserves in terms of attention, especially as a puppy.”
Fitch stated that he likely would not have this much free time again for quite a few years, and said that he was using the time to potty and crate train the dog, as well as relieve his separation anxiety.
Behavior like this is encouraged by Orange County Animal Shelter officials Tenille Fox and Bob Marotto. The shelter finds placement for around 90 percent of the animals, and hopes that those picking up the pet offer up a healthy home. UNC students volunteer frequently at the shelter, some independently and some through organizations such as Helping Paws. For students that have adopted pets and are finding out they are not up for the responsibilities, Marotto had encouraging advice.
“If for some reason people acquire a pet and it’s not working out, we have a community animal shelter and that’s the place to bring the pet. And we can receive the pet, care for the pet.”