Recently, UR was asked to consider the case of a student who requested that she be allowed to have a dog live and attend classes with her for emotional support. This is an important question, and one that will not be answered here. However, this case led me to the conclusion that there should be housing available for students on campus who would like to live with a pet.
Before you call me crazy, consider the colleges that have already implemented a pet-friendly dorm or hall into their residential program. Stephen’s College in Columbia, Miss. offers students the opportunity to live with their pets in select halls on campus. Along with cats and rabbits, dogs are allowed if they weigh less than 40 pounds, and all pets must be kept in a cage or crate while the student is out of his or her room. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. also allows pets under similar guidelines as Stephen’s College.
UR is actually one of the more liberal colleges in the area when it comes to policies regarding pets. Currently, students are allowed to have fish, birds and small caged animals in their dorm rooms, while many colleges only allow fish. Dogs, cats, ferrets, snakes and any poisonous or venomous animals are excluded from any residential area. This is not just a residential life policy, but a university policy as well.
I agree that it is sensible to exclude poisonous and venomous animals from on-campus residential areas, but think about how great it would be if students who wanted to bring a cat or dog to college with them could. Having a pet-friendly dorm would decrease the number of students who house cats or dogs illegally in their dorm rooms, while creating a fun atmosphere for students who are ready to engage themselves in this type of living situation. After all, scientists have demonstrated that living with a pet can ease depression, lessen stress, enhance self-esteem and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
A pet-friendly dorm on UR’s campus should be relatively secluded, certainly not anywhere on the Residential Quad. All the rooms should be singles or suites, and a fenced-in area near the back of the dorm could provide for pet socializing, as well as a safe place to walk them.
Many colleges already house animals on campus, especially if they offer academic programs in animal science or if they have an equestrian team. The concept of students caring for animals living on campus is not new, although it is the case that living with a pet on campus is relatively rare.
Obviously, living with a pet on campus is not for everyone. If you’re a student who leaves your dorm at 6 a.m. and doesn’t return until 11 p.m., caring for a pet is out of the question. But for students who want to live with a furry, four-legged friend, a pet-friendly dorm could be the answer to a fun, comfortable environment at the end of a long day.
Kraus is a member of the class of 2009.