Campus suites, apartments should allow small pets

According to statistics gathered by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about 62 percent of American households have pets. With statistics like that, it’s safe to say that many UW-Whitewater students have probably had a furry, feathery or scaly companion at some point in their life.

Pets benefit their owners in many ways, but students who live on campus aren’t able to take advantage of these benefits. The only non-service animals allowed in our campus dorms are fish in small tanks.

By allowing a larger variety of small pets in the larger university housing options (such as Starin Hall or the university-rented apartments) our campus can help students improve health, lower stress and make friends.

Pets provide many benefits to their owners. Studies have shown that owning a pet can lower an individual’s blood pressure, relieve stress, prevent depression, strengthen the immune system and improve social bonds.

For college students, these are all benefits that can go a long way. The 2012 National Survey of College Counseling states that 92 percent of respondents reported an increase in the number of students seeking help at college counseling centers in recent years.

As college students, we have to balance school work, extracurriculars, jobs and social lives, while still finding time to sleep. Being able to have pets in some dorms can help students cope with stress and potentially prevent further psychological issues.

Being able to own pets at school also can help students make friends and meet new people by boosting their confidence and giving them the opportunity to bond over a pet they may have in common.

Allowing pets on campus would have the added benefits of keeping students on campus over the weekends and teaching students responsibility.

Several things can be done to make on-campus pet ownership a reality.

First, create a limited number of rooms that would be designated as “pet-friendly,” and allow them only in buildings with larger rooms that have enough space for a pet, such as the Starin Hall suites and the university-rented apartments.

Because students already have to apply to live in Starin Hall and the apartments, requesting a pet-friendly room could become part of the application.

All roommates would have to agree on owning a pet, and it could be required that they know what type of pet they would want at the time they fill out the application.

Pet-friendly rooms could be located a specific area of the building, or residents of a pet-friendly room could be required to post a sign on their door saying they own a pet. This way, students with allergies could know where the rooms with pets are located and avoid them if necessary.

Residence Life could still enforce restrictions upon what types of pets are allowed. They may choose to allow only pets that can live in tanks or cages, or they could specify that only pets up to a certain weight are allowed.

Students who live in a pet-friendly room could be required to pay a safety deposit or pet fee.

This fee could be used to insure against or repair any potential damages to the room.

To ensure the pets aren’t destroying the room and the owners are taking proper care of the pets, Resident Assistants could conduct routine checks of the pet-friendly rooms.

If the animal causes problems or the owners are clearly neglecting it, measures could be taken to remove the animal from the room.

Pets have been proven to provide many benefits for their owners. By allowing pets in specified dorms, our campus could become a healthier and friendlier place.

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