As the school year comes to a close, graduating high school seniors are busy getting ready to depart for the next step in their lives. This year more students than ever are planning to move on campus with their dogs. At Stephens College, 30 incoming freshmen will be coming this fall with family pets, a 20 percent increase over last year. The students will be welcomed to a special dorm, called Pet Central, that has a makeshift kennel with temporary boarding services.
Stephens College has allowed pets since 2003 and believes that animals ease the transition to school life. And they’re not alone. Other schools that welcome pets include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Eckerd College, and Washington & Jefferson College.
However, some worry that taking a pet to college could actually have the opposite effect, serving as a Band-Aid for social or mental problems. Others are skeptical that teenagers are responsible enough to care for an animal in a dorm’s crazy environment.
To compensate for the later, colleges have come up with many checks and balances. For instance, Stephens, Eckerd, and Washington & Jefferson have groups of students and faculty members who enforce guidelines that ensure proper care. Last year two students at Stephens College lost their dog privileges after the Pet Council decided that they were not taking proper care of their pets.
I have mixed feelings about allowing pets on campus. I know many people who decided to live off campus in order to keep their dogs and I would’ve loved to have had a dog at school. However, a dorm may not be the best home for a pet. I wonder where those two dogs went that were evicted from the Stephens College dorm.
Certainly there are many college students capable of handling the responsibility of an animal, but there are many that are not. It would be wonderful if these colleges required obedience or agility classes to ensure that the dogs are getting enough mental stimulation, but it sounds like they’ve put a lot of thought into their pet programs, which are still evolving.
What’s your take? Did you have a pet at school?