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Several universities institute pet-friendly dorms

by Rachel Tannenbaum, contributing writer

When students move away to college certain essentials, such as a laptop and
textbooks are required. For many schools, this list now includes the family pet.

In recent years, schools like Eckerd College, Stephens College and MIT have
established living spaces where students can room with their pets.

Although schools allowing pets are beginning to flourish, the University of North Florida has remained steadfast in its pet policies.

Kristin Smith, coordinator of student life at UNF, said the school has never considered
or discussed the idea of pet-friendly residence halls. Smith said there are a handful of concerns with adopting pet-friendly policies.

“Residence halls are limited in  space, which could create stress on the pet,” Smith said. “There is also the thought of a pet getting loose and not being able to locate it.”

According to UNF pet policy, “With the consent of your roommate(s), the only pet you may
have in your room is a non-aggressive fish. The fish tank may not exceed 10 gallons.”

Failure to comply with student policy can result in a fine and the immediate removal of any pet found living in a dorm.

“Many concerns are centered on health and safety issues such as allergies, room cleaning, and waste disposal/sanitation issues,” Smith said. “There is also the concern of noise ­—
as not all pets are passive in personality — and that could become disruptive to the overall community.”
UNF and Jacksonville University have similar pet policies. According to JU’s website, “All pets, other than service animals and harmless varieties of fish stored in tanks of 15 gallons or less, are prohibited in and around residential facilities.”

Students who fail to comply with JU’s pet policies may be removed from the residence.

Even though UNF and JU are standing behind their pet policies, colleges throughout the country are beginning to jump on the pet-friendly bandwagon. Schools that aren’t yet may not be far behind.  With the creation of Facebook groups like “Student’s for Pet-Friendly Dorms!” students are showing more
support for the movement.

Critics of pet friendly dorms are concerned with the animals’ welfare.

Although living with pets may provide soothing stress relief it can also cause stress for the pet, said director of development at the Jacksonville Humane Society, Pamela Javins.

“When you have a pet in college it’s all about being able to get back and forth from
classes and social events to care for an animal,” Javins said.

Students need to think about the financial responsibilities of raising a pet as well, Javins said.

No one should plan to bring a pet into their home without taking into consideration their
ability to provide that animal with regular vet care, she said.

“There is also the cost of food,” Javins said. “Cheap food often has a great deal of filler that has no nutritional value”

Stetson University recently joined the pet-friendly movement by adding 36 pet-friendly dorm rooms to its campus. Megan Young, a residential life coordinator at Stetson University, served as the committee chairwoman for Stetson’s new pet-friendly policies.

The idea for the new dorms came from Stetson’s President Wendy Libby, who started a similar pet-friendly program when she was president at Stephens College.

“Our students never imagined it was a possibility for them to live with their pets on campus,” Young said. “Libby was the one who showed interest in the pet halls.”

“Once Libby verbalized it, students jumped on board,” she said.

Young believes there are many advantages to living with a pet in college. She said it gives students a sense of community to live with other students who are also pet owners.

“After a bad day, your pet will be there,” Young said. “Pets are unconditional love and teach students a larger sense of responsibility.”

Even though UNF has expressed no desire to adapt dorms for pet lovers anytime in the future, two large colleges in Florida have already made the transition into the pet-friendly world. It may be a matter of time before more schools across the state join the trend.

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