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Entitlement and animal abandonment

Sarah Howard

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I am a self-proclaimed animal enthusiast and I know that the “entitlement generation” is too. I love all things about pets and have contemplated getting one of almost every species, but I will be the first one to tell my peers to rethink getting one for themselves.

It is quite the trend to adopt a newborn pup or clumsy kitten at the University of Alabama. Sadly, many students end up giving pets to the shelter when times get tough and especially when summer comes. As seen on the “Alabama Student Ticket Exchange” Facebook group, or even the “Class of…” pages, pets (dogs especially) are being posted daily as students realize they cannot fulfill their obligations. I want to highlight the word obligation, because that is what an owner has made to their helpless pet.

Owning a pet as a college student can be rewarding, as they offer companionship, support, and unconditional love. Unfortunately, the commitment required is akin to having a newborn child. It is all too often the puppy-fever kicks in and suddenly the spontaneous decisions we make as young adults turn into something a lot more important.

Although I can believe that this attitude of “get it when you want and hand it off to someone when you don’t” is typical of anyone at this age in his or her life, I also know that it is exacerbated by the innate entitlement that this generation feels. We believe that since pets are cuddly and can make us smile, we have a right to own one.

Ultimately, feelings do not have rights. Whether this issue takes form in animal adoption, safe-zones, or participation trophies, it is plaguing college campuses today. A dog will not learn to stop chewing on a pillow until it is told and students need to be told to stop thinking so selfishly. Responsibilities, rather, need to be earned. Working at a company does not give you the right to a promotion. Even though you would love the higher salary, you are likely not prepared to fulfill the many new responsibilities. Entitlement occurs in various ways, but that associated with the lives of other creatures can be incredibly devastating.

Animals are not an accessory or an object for an Instagram photoshoot. If you are prepared to wake up every two hours to take a puppy to the bathroom, pay for the medical bills that will eventually surface, and have safe plans for your pet when summer rolls around – go for it. To everyone else, I beg for you to realize that a pet is a long-term commitment. It does not matter the species (this includes the for-sale chickens on Facebook), the breed, or even the age. There is no entitlement to feelings.  

Sarah Howard is a sophomore majoring in chemistry. Her column runs biweekly.

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Entitlement and animal abandonment