Pets on Campus? Yes, Say Many Universities
That's right: Cat-owner Kretschmer, along with nearly 50 other students at SUNY Canton, lives in the school's "pet wing," a section of the co-ed Mohawk Hall dormitory where small pets – cats, turtles, fish, rabbits and rodents – are welcome (dogs and snakes are banned).
Allowing pets on campus is a growing trend in the United States. Schools including Eckerd, Washington & Jefferson and Stephens (above) colleges all have pet-friendly dorms, giving students permission to bring their furry (and scaly) friends to campus – granted they have their pets vaccinated and follow the strict rules.
At SUNY Canton, students sign a two-page contract that outlines the do's and don'ts of living with pets: regular cleaning of litter boxes and cages and keeping the dorm alcohol-free, among others. "The process to live in the pet wing is just like any other room on campus," says Chris Marquart, Assistant Director of Resident Life at SUNY Canton. "Returning students get the 'first shot' at rooms during housing sign-ups, which happen at the end of the spring semester for the following fall. Most of the rooms get taken at this time by upper-classmen, and the remaining rooms are given to freshmen who request pet wing. It's a first-come, first-serve system."
For students like SUNY Canton freshman Jordan Lassiter, whose 4-month-old hamster, Jayden, lives in his room, residing in the pet wing has made all the difference in his college career. "It's fun to have a little companion come along to school and keep me company," he says. "Sometimes the upkeep is hard with all the schoolwork, but it's rewarding to come back to my room and have some personal time with my pet to bring a stressful day to a relaxing end."
While it is common knowledge that having a pet around can oftentimes reduce stress, Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle warns that some students don't necessarily think enough about the responsibilities of pet ownership – cost, time and effort – when purchasing a critter. "Generally, we are a bit wary of the idea, mainly due to the dumping of pets at the end of a semester," he tells PEOPLE Pets. "That said, if a college implements a program that establishes best practices, then it holds the prospect of helping bring order to the increasing practice of universities allowing pets in dorms."
Regardless of the debate, SUNY Canton pet-wing students believe their choice is the right choice. Says freshman Reid Finn, who owns 7-month-old turtles Leonardo and Michelangelo, "I know that next year I'll want to be in this dorm again – everyone got to know each other so quickly thanks to the bonding that happened over the pets." Sophomore Melanie Putman, mom to cat Sachi, 4 years old, agrees. "I couldn't see myself living in any other place."