Pets, specifically dogs and cats, are able to bring people happiness and comfort and definitely have a place on college campuses. They do not, however, have a place in residence halls.
Though residence hall pet policy states that only small fish and emotional support animals registered through the Office of Student Disability Services are allowed, each residence hall seems to have their own stories about people sneaking in disallowed animals or trying to get a support dog that isn’t actually necessary. Pets in residence halls can harm other students and be hard to care for in residence hall conditions and therefore shouldn’t be taken so lightly.
The fact is that many students are allergic to pet dander. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2006, 15.7 percent of U.S. residents aged 6 and over were sensitized to dog and cat allergens. Assuming that Green Quad was representative to the U.S. population in this way, that would mean approximately 78 of it 499 occupants would be allergic to pet dander.
I am allergic to both cats and dogs. When I’m in the home of a dog that isn’t hypoallergenic, I have to take precautions to evade the worst of the dander — resulting in me not being able to sit on the floor or on upholstery the dog lays on. I have to go home and immediately shower, or else risk spending the rest of the day miserable with puffy eyes and a runny nose. It’s not fair to people with these allergies to have to share living spaces with animals that are likely to make them sick.
Setting aside the harm that having a furry companion could potentially do to other people, taking care of a pet, especially one that is stir-crazy in a residence hall for long periods during the day, can be time-consuming. Since college students tend to have such odd schedules, it can also be hard to prevent a pet from getting into trouble or having an accident while their caretaker is busy, especially if they aren’t properly trained. Dogs need to be let out at regular intervals and need exercise after being cooped up in a residence hall. Cats instinctively scratch things — a practice which may harm the owner’s belongings or the university's furniture — and require a well-maintained litter box. All this responsibility on top of the multiple costs to own a pet — such as buying food, toys, cleaning supplies and bedding – makes keeping a dog or cat in a dorm room more of an undertaking than most students would choose to take on.
Pets definitely do have a place on college campuses. Many organizations will occasionally bring in member’s pets just to share the love that they bring. Pet a Pup and the wellness center’s therapy dog are testaments to the positive impact that domesticated animals on campus can bring students. The problems occur when the dog or cat is on campus without a purpose.
As mentioned previously, legitimate support animals are an exception to the residence hall pet policy. The benefit to the owner can outweigh the challenges of caring for the animal in these situations. For some people, having their furry friend helps them get out of bed in the morning and overcome anxiety. When taken care of properly and cleaned up after, people that are allergic to pets and support animals can coexist. With proper care, pets could feasibly live in a residence hall. The amount of work it takes to balance these needs of the pet and of cohabitants should be considered and weighed along with the benefit the animal will bring. Before trying to defy a university policy, students would do well to think of why it was instated in the first place.