SSU’s furry little problem

If you live on campus, you have most likely heard the occasional bark or meow of an animal emerging from the open window of a student dorm. Cats and dogs, among other small furry animals, are very popular within the residential college community. And it’s not surprising in the slightest.

The emotional and physical benefits of having a pet have consistently been scientifically proven to be massive. Owning a pet not only increases the likelihood and frequency of daily activity or exercise but also notably raises one’s serotonin and dopamine levels.

 Naturally, the result of this is an infinitely healthier person both inside and out. So the fact that several Sonoma State students clearly own pets shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Well, Campus Housing certainly would take issue with that statement. According to Section 1: General Policies of their Policies and Regulations form for the 2013-2014 school year, no pets (other than fish in 20-gallon or smaller bowls) are allowed to reside within the Residential Community. Violation of this policy will result in the necessary removal of said offending animal within 24 hours and the implementation of “disciplinary action.”

Needless to say, Housing doesn’t take kindly to the idea of keeping a dog or cat hidden in the student dorms. I am a huge animal lover, so my first response to this policy was a bit on the cynical side. The happiest moments of my life have been spent with my beloved pets, and I would not doubt that many of you can say the same. 

Going off to college is already an earthshattering change; a pet’s presence can make adjusting that much easier. After all, why should anyone ever have to suffer through many a potentially stressful day without the guaranteed “pick-me-up” of coming home to a loving pet? That was my staunch, self-righteous opinion, anyway.

But that was before my suitemates and I bought a kitten of our own. As adorable as he was, our suite’s furry little friend brought far more trouble than his precious presence was worth.

Whether it be the endless hours spent attempting to calm a crazed kitten, the constant cleaning of a rancid litter box, or the perpetual fear of being caught, having a cat in our dorm was, in retrospect, a stupid decision.

Luckily for us, we managed to find our kitten a proper home before the consequences of sheltering him became unbearable. Most are not so fortunate. 

In fact, every SSU student I ask has said that they either had a pet in their dorm once or know of someone who did. Their experiences more often than not culminated in the animal’s discovery and banishment.

Regardless, my brief foray into the wearisome world of a secret kitty harborer completely altered my opinion of Housing’s pet policies. 

Not only did the cat bring an additional lack of sanitation to an already less than hygienic college dorm room, but also we were far too immature and irresponsible to be trusted with the task of caring for him. 

Simply caring for oneself, let alone another living creature, is a seemingly unattainable endeavor for a majority of college students. In other words, there’s a more than justifiable reason that keeping a pet in the Residential Community is not allowed.

Granted, there are a couple of necessary and much-appreciated exceptions to that rule. Service dogs are definitely permitted, but I believe that should be a given in any place, public or private, in our society. 

What I find particularly special about Sonoma State is the ease with which comfort dogs and cats are accepted. One would be remiss to compare owning a comfort animal to hiding a hastily bought shelter pet inside the dorms.

Comfort animals fall into the category of providing emotionally distraught or simply stressed out students the warmth and well-being which other human beings cannot, or will not, provide. 

Also, they are highly trained pets whose presence would be much less intrusive and cumbersome for fellow suitemates. Of course, I would only recommend applying for a comfort animal if you have already consulted with CAPS and have mid-to-severe anxiety and depression or have recently suffered a significant traumatic experience.

Just as I no longer support students keeping pets in their dorms “for fun,” I would strongly discourage students who feel “a little sad” once in a while from attempting to apply for a comfort animal. 

After all, our campus is incredibly animal friendly; the days when I don’t see a few dogs roaming happily about the school are few and far between. 

Trust me, it is not difficult to get your furry, cuddly animal fix around here. And you certainly don’t need to violate a very necessary campus policy to receive it.