by Eric Pesale
While I did touch upon the subject of pet-friendly colleges a few weeks ago, I recently had a chance to talk with some college officials who were directly involved with making their campuses pet-friendly. And as it turns out, the introduction of pet-friendly has done a lot to enhance the college experience both inside and outside the dorm room!
Take, for example, Stephens College in Missouri, which houses students with pets in a dorm community called Pet Central. While students involved in equestrian were allowed to bring their horses to college, the idea for pet-friendly housing eventually caught on when the college’s previous president, Dr. Wendy Libby, brought her dog Addy to live on campus with her during the summer.
“Students absolutely fell in love with this black lab,” said Deb Duren, Stephen College’s vice president for student affairs. “When school started, she put e-mails out to students that Addy was on campus and invited them to come visit.” She added that Addy’s popularity on campus inspired her and senior staff members to pursue a housing program that allowed students to bring their own pets to campus as well.
Pet Central, which began with seven rooms for students and pets in 2004, has now expanded to include two buildings. Duren said that while housing figures change hourly, the college currently houses 60-70 students that room with their pets. She added that while most of the pet-owning student population has dogs, others have brought cats, rabbits, and even sugar gliders.
And even students there who don’t own a pet have a chance to live with one on the quad! Duren said the college also plans to launch a new initiative on animal fostering with local group Columbia Second Chance, which holds an animal clinic on campus about one night a week. Students participating in the program receive benefits including a lower housing rate and the ability to pursue internship opportunities with the organization.
“Along with our initiative with our equestrian folks, we will start to attract people who are pre-vet because they will be able to do things with multiple animals,” she said.
Before Libby’s arrival, staff were allowed to bring pets to work, but students were not allowed to have pets live with them in the dorms.
“When [Libby] transferred to Stetson, questions were swirling around if the university would be pet-friendly,” said Megan Young, Stetson’s residential life coordinator. After a lengthy research process that analyzed the policies of pet-friendly colleges like Stephens and Eckerd College and considered other factors like Florida’s flea population and possible pest control issues, Stetson’s Board of Trustees approved Nemec Hall to open some of its rooms to pets for the Fall 2010 semester.
Young said that pet-friendly rooms in Nemec Hall have grown from a population of about 30 beds and spaces last year to about 40 to 50 this year. She added that the Residential Life staff is hoping to make all 80 spaces in the hall pet-friendly for next year.
Young, who has a dachshund, said that there are about 20 students who have dogs in Nemec Hall, and that there have been a lot of applications for more.
“There’s definitely been an increase for people wanting to be there,” Young said. “It’s the spot for pet lovers.”
In all, Stetson University’s pet-friendly policies has had an impact on the campus. Young said that some staff on campus bring their animals with them to work, and that the university also allows students to help take care of service dogs in training from local organization New Horizons Service Dogs.
“I think overall the atmosphere is just a little more different,” Young said. “Whereas before I was the only person walking dog on campus, now you see even more members of the community walking their dogs through campus. It’s a different feel now.”