By Sadie Pass
In the past couple of years, more students than ever before have brought their pets to live on campus. From Moody-Shearn Hall to the Lord Residential Center Apartments, pets are all around. However, Southwestern does not have an effective policy that outlines who gets pets and how pets are handled on campus.
Southwestern needs a coherent pet policy that will explicitly state the rules, regulations, and procedures of bringing a pet to live on campus. Pets can help students mental and physical health and at a small school with an active student congress, there should be no problems in implementing such a policy. A policy in the works now that designates one dorm building specifically for pet owners will benefit both students who have and do not have pets, as well as create actual guidelines to clarify the pet policy for the university when faced with making pet related decisions.
According to Dean of Students Leese, the current policy is technically a “no pets allowed on campus” policy though there are exceptions for students who provide doctor’s notes explaining a physical or mental condition that would be helped by living with a pet. There is no debate that a policy is needed, and Student Congress, Leese, individual students, and Physical Plant are currently working together to come up with a consistent pet policy.
About five years ago, a pet policy was voted down by Physical Plant and the housekeeping staff because of the potential damage to floors and furniture and the mess that pets may create. The important considerations of the sanitation and safety of theuniversity’s buildings make the task of writing a policy an extremely delicate one.
Despite this first failure, Student Congress is again working towards a policy. While little headway has been made towards voting on a policy, some students have submitted their own ideas. The leading idea now is for a policy that designates one of the Lord Center buildings as a pet-friendly dorm. The first students to sign up for housing and mark that they want to bring their pet to school will move into the approved pet dorm.
This plan allows students who want their pets at school to bring them, even if they don’t have a doctor’s note, and it insures that students who are allergic to or don’t like animals will not be living around the pets on campus.
It does, however, limit the number of pets allowed on campus, and the plan may also include special fees and costs for pet owners because of the extra maintenance and possibility of damage to the building.
While the limited space may be a problem when the policy is first implemented, the administration can gauge the number of pets and possibly create another pet friendly dorm if the need arises. The extra cost will cover some of Physical Plant’s concerns of damage so they will be less hesitant to allow pets into the buildings they maintain.
Even if a policy may be hard to agree upon, the importance of allowing students to live with their pets on campus is not overlooked by students and staff. This pet policy will not be agreed upon unless Student Congress, Physical Plant, and the administration can agree on the parameters of such a policy. The work currently being done is a step in the right direction. A separate pet dorm provides options and even if there is a small cost involved, it insures that students will be allowed to live with their pets in the upcoming years.