Imagine being able to come back to your dorm after a long day of classes and seeing your loyal and loving pet waiting for you.
Most colleges in the country do not allow pets in dorms. However, dozens of them have started to offer pet friendly housing.
Christopher Hovel, Residential Life Coordinator at Stetson University, is in charge of the pet-friendly dorms at Stetson.
“We have roughly 40 approved pets in our pet-friendly areas,” Hovel said. “Students are generally very excited about the opportunity to be able to bring their pet with them to school.”
Stetson Cove is one of the pet-friendly buildings at Stetson University.
“We allow 16 students per year to bring their pets to campus; provided they have gone through the approval process and meet our requirements,” Hovel explains. “Having their pets with them can both aid in helping them be responsible with their time management and help them feel like there is a little piece of home is with them.”
The application process for registering your pet is easy to access on the school’s website. Students must include a photo of their pet, vaccination records, veterinary proof of one-year ownership, a $50 fee and a signed waiver. The waiver that the students must sign outlines the responsibilities they are expected to follow through with if they have a pet in their room.
Most students know about Riley, the therapy dog on campus. Thomas Norman is in charge of the program and brings Riley all around campus with him.
“Dr. Kerr was the one that wanted there to be a campus pet and I said I would gladly do this as long as Riley was welcome everywhere on campus and that he could be in my office while I was at work,” Norman said.
Norman believes Riley has a positive effect on the students at Florida Southern. “Some students visit him just to play with a dog as a stress reliever and there is a smaller group that visit from a sense of security and making FSC feel like home,” Norman said. “In therapy sessions with some students he is there for reassurance and comfort.”
Norman believes there are pros and cons of having pets on campus.
“There are schools that allow cats and dogs and I think that’s great but it can be problematic as not all people train their pets,” Norman said.
There have also been rumors of students who have had pets secretly in their rooms. Claire Frost, who has had a pet in her dorm in the past, explains how having a pet affected her college life.
“I used to skip the parties and just go back to my room to cuddle with my hamster,” Frost said.
Frost has also done a lot of research on the benefits of having pets for a research paper last semester.
“It has been proven that college students graduate with better grades when they have had a pet with them at school during their four years of college,” Frost said. “I think the dorms should be treated like apartments where you can have animals as long as you follow the set guidelines.”
Wendy McClure, a Florida Southern College alumni from 30 years ago, remembers her pet experiences on campus.
“My roommate Emily brought home to our room, in the ADPi house, a baby chick from the Plant City Strawberry Festival, I think,” McClure said. “It followed us around, walked right next to our feet, stayed on the bed while we studied, and peeped continually.”
Not all students have had good experiences with pets in dorms. Donna Hearn, another alumni from class of 1983, tells a story from when she was at Florida Southern.
“Our sophomore year, my roommate and I lived in Columbia and our neighbors had a smelly ferret,” Hearn said. “It was gross!”
The next year Hearn decided to have her own pet and it did not work out as planned.
“I brought two hamsters to school, being reassured they were both females,” Hearn said. “Lo and behold we had a litter of hamsters born!”
She had to sell all but one to a local pet shop.
Bill Langston, Dean of Student Development at Florida Southern, believes that pets can have a positive impact.
“I certainly believe that pets can have a positive impact,” Langston said. “Personally speaking, I know that my mood is lifted each day when I get home and am greeted at the door by the loving face of my pet.”
Langston also sees that there could be issues with students bringing their pets to school.
“The typical college student’s schedule can be very hectic and fast-paced and may not be conducive to providing the best environment for a pet,” Langston said.
Has Florida Southern College considered allowing pets in dorms?
“The subject of a pet policy is not something that has been addressed in my office,” Langston said.
Photo by Kenzie McMullen