Editorial: Allowing pets in dorms could prevent homesickness

College-bound students leave almost everything behind when they uproot for a new school. Many deal with separation from cherished pets that have been by their side since childhood in addition to the separation from family members — and dorms surely don’t feel like home.

Eckerd College, however, may alleviate homesickness with its pet policy. Unlike other Florida universities, such as USF and UF, Eckerd College — along with fewer than a dozen colleges across the country — allows pets in its residence halls. This includes cats and dogs up to 40 pounds that have lived with family members for more than 10 months and will be more than a year old come move-in day.

Allowing pets on campus is quite a progressive step for Eckerd College.

A long day of school and work can be instantly brightened by the joyous reunion of a pet and its owner. Furthermore, pet owners can socialize with each other during walks and pet events hosted on campus, helping them make a smoother adjustment into the campus community.

Sure, pets can cause messes and serve as yet another issue for the Residence Hall Association to deal with, but the burden they present could be minimized with rules and fines.

Just like any other apartment complex, universities can establish a set of rules for pet ownership and charge fees if students’ pets damage their residence in any way, just as they do for students who accidentally put a hole in the wall or scratch the furniture.

Additionally, complexes could reserve select halls for pet owners, so those allergic to or afraid of certain animals wouldn’t have to deal with them. Most apartment complexes have a list of dog breeds that are not allowed because of their aggressive nature, and the same could apply to on-campus housing. Also, apartment complexes are quick to stress that if the pet becomes a problem, the person — in this case, the student — would have a set number of days to remove the animal.

In 2009, USF will require all incoming freshmen who are under 21 years old and don’t live within Hillsborough’s neighboring counties to live in the dorms. Though the residence halls weren’t built with pets in mind, future halls could be designed to house pets, attracting students who might’ve sought off-campus housing after their first year, leaving the University with an empty bed to fill.