The Ames Animal Shelter and Animal Control are organizing a campaign for the 2001-2002 academic year to educate students on the adoption and care of a new pet.

The shelter is looking to team up with ISU organizations to further their cause.

Students leaving home for the first time may experience a loneliness that can often be eased by the company of a new pet. Although a new pet may replace one left behind at home, or simply liven up a new apartment, one organization encourages people to think before getting a pet.

The campaign was prompted by problems in the past with ditched pets and overcrowding at the shelter at the end of the school year.

"At the end of May, the number of dumped pets increases 30 percent in the Ames area, especially around apartment complexes," said Lorna Lavender of the Ames Animal Shelter. "Some are lucky enough to be found before the animal suffers, but many are not."

Lavender said dumped animals easily can starve to death or catch and spread diseases.

Jo Baumann, manager of Rainbow Properties of Ames, believes both landlords and tenants need to take pet adoption very seriously.

"Pets are like children," Baumann said. "They require a great amount of responsibility and should not be left alone for long hours. Students should consider waiting four years, when they don't have to balance the responsibility of a pet with school, studying and jobs."

To control the number of pets being dumped around apartment complexes, Baumann urges management to make lots of visits to their buildings.

"Get to know your tenants," she said. "If management chooses to allow pets in apartment complexes, they should have very specific pet contracts."

The Ames Animal Shelter and Animal Control committees will meet today at the shelter to discuss what can be done to reduce the number of pets being dumped by students.

Educating students is the key, Lavender said.

"Pets can live 15 years, and they need lifelong care," she said.

When it comes time for students to move at the end of the school year, they often do not know what to do with their pet, or simply do not want it anymore, Lavender said. The project is aimed to show students that dumping the pet is not the answer.

In addition, a goal of the campaign is to increase awareness of what the Ames Animal Shelter offers, before and after the adoption of a pet. Lavender said many students are not aware the shelter will help pay for spaying and neutering pets, thanks to donations to the shelter.

"Don't be ashamed if you need to bring your pet to the shelter," she said. "Just please plan ahead, because the shelter does get overcrowded in the spring."

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