By Sam Coren
For many new college students, going off to school means saying goodbye to furry companions. But for students attending Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. they don’t have to leave their pets at home. In 1972, the university developed a Pet Policy so that pet owners can enjoy the advantages of bringing their pet to live in the campus environment, while still maintaining the safety of students and beauty of the campus.
Throughout 2010, 35 cats, rabbits, ferrets and dogs were registered and living on campus. There were also approximately 50 other types of domestic animals on campus at the time, including fish, hamsters, amphibians and reptiles.
“I think it’s a positive because our students travel an average of 950 miles to come to Eckerd. For these students, bringing their pets makes the transition a bit easier,” says John Sullivan, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.
For some students, the Pet Policy can be a deciding factor when they go to compare colleges. “From time to time a student will approach us at a college fair and let us know they were interested in us because they read or heard that we had a pet dorm and they want to learn more about Eckerd because of it,” says Sullivan.
Several other colleges have followed Eckerd’s lead and adopted a pet policy of their own. Many of these schools look to Eckerd for what are considered the best practices when dealing with a pet life program.
Students, both pet owners and non-pet owners, have the task of administering the Pet Policy through Eckerd’s Pet Council. “It forces animal owners to take more responsibility of themselves and the animals they have. Non-animal owners are involved as well because they know there are other living beings that are sharing the space that they call home,” says Tonya Womack, Staff Advisor to the Pet Council.
There are strict guidelines that pet-owners must adhere to when taking advantage of this privilege. For example, a pet snake can be no bigger than six feet long. A dog can be no heavier than forty pounds. If at any point a student does not adhere to these rules or a pet becomes a nuisance to the community, the pet owner will either be put on probation or have to remove the pet from campus.
Some pets even experience levels of fame and notoriety on Eckerd’s campus. Womack fondly remembers one student who brought two ducks to live with her on campus. The ducks followed her around everywhere she went, from practices with the softball team to the dorm where she was a resident advisor. “The ducks were well known and brought a sense of pride to the community,” says Womack. “You could not go to any other college or university and say that there was a student that had a duck there.”
Other Pet Friendly Colleges
Lehigh University – Fraternities and Sororities at this Pennsylvania school are allowed to have cats and dogs with prior approval from the Residence Life office.
Washington & Jefferson College – W&J has an entire dorm called “pet house” (aka Monroe Hall). However there are some hoops to jump through before you can set up shop with fluffy. Like most of the schools, you have to have your pet’s veterinary record on hand for registration. Last year the dorm housed to 17 students, seven cats, five dogs and two guinea pigs.
Stephens College – Students at this college in Columbia, Missouri have keeping dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, lizards and birds. Make note that not all dog breeds are permitted so make sure you clear Fido with the school before bringing him.
Did you bring your pet to college? Share your experience with our readers in the comments!