Santa Barbara County Animal Services is offering a 50 percent discount to patrons who adopt animals that have been at one of three area animal shelters for six months or longer.

The Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc animal shelter promotions began on Feb. 1 and will be held through Feb. 14 in celebration of Valentine’s Day. The ‘Share the Love’ adoption campaign also includes a two-for-one deal on the purchase of paired animals and will host adoption fairs at all locations on Feb. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to Stacy Silva, Santa Barbara Animal Services Community Outreach Coordinator, adopting a pet from a shelter is better than purchasing one from a store.

“The more people continue to buy from pet stores means more animals you will see in the shelters,” Silva said. “The idea is that hopefully people will open up their homes and hearts this Valentine’s Day for an animal that has been at the shelter for longer than we would like them to be.”

The fee for adopting a dog during the promotion is reduced to $45 and the fee for cats is reduced to $32. The promotion is meant to decrease overcrowding in the county’s shelters, which has worsened during the recent economic downturn.

Animal Shelter Assistance Program President Eliane Martin said the shelters take precautions including landlord approval checks and roommate consultations before allowing college students to adopt pets.

“We try to make college students understand that they are in transition and often do not know where they will be in five years,” Martin said. “We want to find responsible people who really want a pet to become part of the family, not someone who wants an accessory or just thinks it is cute.”

Despite the assistance, second-year sociology major Alex Hankard said owning a pet as a college student in I.V. is a bad idea.

“I personally would not get a dog while in college because I know I would not have the time to give it what it needs,” Hankard said. “Even with my housemates, I am wary over who would bring in a dog and how responsible that person is.”

According to Jean Silva, volunteer coordinator for Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, rabbits are a practical pet for college students because of their size and cleanliness.

“Rabbits are self-cleaning, litter box trained and can run free in an apartment,” Silva said. “People for the most part just think of them as an animal that sits in a box at the bottom of garden, but in fact they are bright, cheerful little beings and are especially perfect for someone interested in animal training or behavioral psychology.”

Students and community members are strongly encouraged to volunteer at their local animal shelter.

“We encourage people to get involved through volunteering,” Silva said. “Even if it means providing a loving home for an animal until it’s ready to be placed.”

For more information on volunteering opportunities with the shelter, contact the Santa Barbara branch at (805) 681-5285.