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Iz In Ur Hallz, Livin Wif Ur Studenz!

The New York Times has another story about what those wacky colleges and universities are up to. This one focuses on Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, which has a residence hall for students and their pets. Not just fish, not just cats, but dogs too. Even dogs that weigh more than 40 lbs. A board of students and faculty members governs the students with pet privileges, and can revoke a student’s permission to have a pet on-campus if the student doesn’t take proper care of her animal.

Meredith Whipple, our editorial intern, wrote about a similar program at Stetson University.

Stephens College administrators say the program has gone smoothly, with only a few violations of policy. They say the students who bring pets to campus tend to be organized and hard-working. Skeptics, however, say the frantic pace of campus life and good animal care don’t mix. They worry animals will spend long periods of time alone in their owners’ rooms, and that pets will be abandoned after the academic year is over.  On a New York Times blog, Deb Duren, Vice President for Student Services at Stephens, is fielding questions on their pet-friendly policy. There are also a number of comments from readers; some are positive, others are very skeptical.

Are these and other factors ones your institution considered when allowing or disallowing pets in residence halls?

You Were Asking: Emotional Support Animals

A member asked me if we knew of any institutions that had made specific accommodations for “emotional support animals.” I couldn’t find any institutions that had done so (let us know if you have), but I did find a number of policies on the subject. I’ve posted what I found (which is only a selection of what is out there). Most institutions only allow service animals to live on campus; i.e.: animals that have been trained to assist their masters in specific ways: seeing-eye dogs, mobility-impairment dogs (who can open doors and fetch dropped objects, among other tasks); hearing dogs and seizure alert dogs. In some cases, this list also specifically includes psychiatric service animals and social signal dogs, who support people with autism.

Generally, according to my research, emotional-support animals, which have not been trained for their tasks, but are emotionally supportive because that’s what animals provide for their owners, are not allowed on campus. The reasons are numerous; allergies, cleanliness (where does the litterbox go?), and the fact that a residence hall room isn’t the best place in which to confine a cat or dog. Emotional support animals are not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so it isn’t legally necessary to provide them access.

What are your policies on this? Have you had any appeals? How did you handle them?

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Animal House

If you feel like your residence hall is filled with a bunch of animals, just try living in Nemec Hall at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. As reported elsewhere, beginning in August 2010, a section of Nemec Hall will welcome not only 36 students, but each of their favorite pets from home, including fish, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rats, mice, cats and dogs during the inaugural year of the program.

Stenton University President Wendy B. Libby introduced a similar program during her presidency at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. It was a great success and seemed to help new students adjust to the college environment.

Students can bring one pet each as long as the animal is under 30 pounds and the student pays a registration fee and security deposit. A Pet Council oversees the program, from handling problems to providing input for the dog park that is being constructed outside.

Learn more about Nemec Hall here. Pictured below are Angelina Suarez and Bailey.

Pitter-Patter of Little Cat (Dog, Gerbil) Feet

More on pets in residence halls:

CNN reports that MIT, Stephen’s College and SUNY-Canton allow pets-within certain restrictions of course. CNN also points out that Tufts tried a pet-friendly policy for faculty, residence directors and graduate teaching assistants living on-campus, but abandoned it after students with allergies and asthma complained about the dander.

USA Today highlights a Washington & Jefferson student and her bichon frise, Vinny, and also talks to officials at Eckerd College and Stephens College.

Both stories point out the complications of pet housing:

  • Dander and student allergies complicate things. As one official points out, after a dog or cat has lived in a room for a year, it is non-allergenic for several years afterward, even with thorough cleanings. Housing professionals often re-appropriate rooms and halls from year to year (making a single sex hall co-ed for example) in reaction to changing demands for housing. A pro-pet policy could limit their flexibility in this way.
  • The Humane Society of the United States, while not outright condemning pet ownership by college students, strongly cautions against it. The ASPCA takes a similar stance. According to the USA Today article, the ASPCA is “cautiously supportive” of pro-pet policies, hoping such allowances prevent students from sneaking forbidden animals into their rooms and poorly caring for them as a result of their secrecy. Both organizations point out what housing professionals already know: students are prone to emotional, impulsive decisions and may not think through all the ramifications of owning, say, an adorable little puppy who will grow up to be a ungangly dog, bored and in need of something to chew. The timeline stretches beyond move-out, or even graduation: A commitment to a pet can span 15 years or longer, depending on the animal. (The Humane Society frowns on keeping reptiles as pets in any situation for example, in part because the creatures can live far longer than humans’ attention spans.) Both organizations worry students will poorly care for their charges, or abandon them at move-out time.
  • Making and enforcing rules on pets-how big, shots, length of ownership, etc.-is complicated. Stephens College temporarily confiscated dogs from owners who were not caring for them properly; Eckerd codified its policy on snakes after a student brought a 12-foot boa constrictor to live in the hall, which frightened his hall-mates.

For those of us who are pet-lovers, the issue seems simple at first: I can bring my dog to school? Great! But as you dig deeper, it is more complicated, especially when you try to determine who such a policy benefits: the humans, the animals, or both?

Im N UR Rez Hall Livin Wit UR Studenz!

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is allowing students to keep cats in designated residence halls, reports the Boston Globe. The cats must be neutered, have all necessary shots, and are not allowed to roam outside the building.

What do you think of this plan? Pets in the halls makes some housing professionals — particularly those in facilities — blanch at the prospect, and that’s understandable. (Cats can make scratch-posts of bed legs and fur coats out of carpets.) But the appeal to students and live-in professionals is also understandable.

Have no idea why the headline is near-nonsense? Check out this, then this.