Research shows college students contributing to excess pet pop. - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Research shows college students contributing to excess pet population in Tuscaloosa

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TUSCALOOSA, AL -

Students in Tuscaloosa hope a new project will help them save the local pet population.

A group of psychology students at the University of Alabama have partnered with a group of middle schoolers from Davis-Emerson Middle School. Their goal is to figure out why Tuscaloosa has an excess of pets that are euthanized every year.

You may think college students and middle schoolers don't have a lot in common, but one U.A. professor said his psychology students can learn a thing or two from the younger set.

Dr. Jeffrey Parker said, "They look for ways to get youth back involved in their communities. They look for ways to realize that youth can be change agents and they try to use the strengths of youth to get out and make changes in their community."

The Davis-Emerson Middle School student's passion about abandoned pets turned into a project for both groups.

"I know that there are animals that are out on the side of the road and it's just become way too common to just see an animal out on the side of the road and it just is normal," middle schooler Michalie Laviens said.

Dr. Parker said his students researched and determined that more than 5200 dogs, cats, puppies, and kitten are euthanized in area shelters in Tuscaloosa each year.  The middle schoolers and psychology class things students think college students may be to blame for abandoned pets. Haley Thorpe, an 8th grade student said, "They don't really realize the commitment they're making to these pets when they get them."

7th grade student Jahvante Williams said, "I was really surprised because when I hear of college students having animals I think of they are always with them in their handbags or something like that."

But taking unwanted pets to shelters may not be the answer either. "The reason putting them in shelters is bad is because 67 percent of all animals that go to shelters are euthanized. That's seven thousand in the state of Alabama alone," 8th grader Meredith Guinn added.

So they think the solution may be education. Emma Ryan, 7th grade student at DEMS said, "If we talk to five people today, if one person gets across, if one person actually thinks about it and makes a difference then that makes a huge impact on what we're trying to do."

This project doesn't end here. There's actually two more phases. Another group of students will go out into the community and spread the same message, and a final group will meet with state lawmakers in hopes to change state legislation.

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