Pets offer many benefits to law students. According to the National Center for Infectious Diseases, pets increase socialization opportunities while decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol, and many other health ailments brought on by the stress of school. Most of us have heard these and other health benefits touted as reasons to have pets. However, although a pet can offer comfort and companionship, we, as responsible and busy law students, need to be attentive to the care these pets require, especially before acquiring a new friend
As students, we attend classes and group meetings throughout the day and evening. Dogs need to be walked at least three times a day, and a cat left alone may become destructive or develop neurological issues.
After 1L year, many of us travel frequently to job interviews, to visit friends or family, or just to have fun with friends. While it is easy and inexpensive to ensure fish are cared for during times of absence, it may be difficult and expensive to schedule care for a cat or dog. Boarding costs in DC range from $30-$45 a night, and friends that eagerly cared for your pet for the two days you were away for your first interview might not be as eager when you drop off your pet with them as you leave for your fifth interview and get stranded hundreds of miles away for an extra week due to a hurricane (yes, this happened to me)
However, there are ways to get around some of the complications that accompany having a pet. Small dogs cost less and can travel easily under the seat on flights, in contrast to large dogs which cost more to feed, are only allowed on flights as cargo, and require more exercise. Adult dogs have the advantage of having a known personality, are housebroken, and don’t have to be walked as frequently or need as much attention as puppies. Although puppies are cute, they require much more time for exercise and training, and they are more prone to destroying things (like your Contracts book)
Also you may even end up with a dog incongruous with how you envisioned dog ownership (i.e., shy and timid when you wanted outgoing and social). While dogs and cats are popular choices, students should also consider small animals, such as hamsters and guinea pigs, birds, fish, or reptiles, which offer similar benefits as cats and dogs and often require less work and expense.
Students can do a few things to ensure the best experience possible with their pets.
First, always check your landlord’s pet policy before signing a lease, whether you already have a pet or are obtaining a new pet.
Second, be realistic with yourself about the amount of care and time you are able (and want) to give a pet.
Third, research the pet thoroughly before making any decision; consider it practice for your career. Finally, remember that any pet you choose will look to you for care and companionship for long after law school ends, so make sure to include them in your future plans.
By being honest with yourself and doing a little research, you can enjoy all of the benefits a pet has to offer. If you decide that the responsibility, time, or expense are too much for you but still want to enjoy animals, petting horses at Rock Creek Park or watching the lions at the National Zoo are free and entail no responsibility on your end.
by Tianda Harris, 2L