A call to change LU’s pet policy

By Rachael York

Lawrence University’s pet policy is not fair to students who genuinely want an animal in their lives. By its nature, the voting system is unbalanced; the necessity of a unanimous vote rather than a majority vote almost always guarantees that there will be at least one “no.” That single answer is all it takes, even if the “no” comes from someone who lives on the other side of the building, who would never see, hear or smell the desired pet.

As a second year Residence Life Advisor, I have facilitated multiple pet votes, and I have yet to see one that results in the resident actually getting their pet. Students want pets for so many different reasons—they had one back at home and wanted to bring it with them to school, they are used to having a pet and miss the companionship it brings, or they find that being responsible for a pet helps them stay on track. However, because of the mandatory votes, most students will never get this opportunity.

In a city with drastically cold weather and a school environment where stress is so prevalent, all students should have access to whatever they need to ensure good mental health. For some students, that means having a pet. I know that having a fish has been helpful in the past for me, but it was never completely fulfilling. Fish are hard to connect with, as you cannot actually touch them, and they do not really acknowledge your existence, as opposed to a pet that you can actually play and bond with.

In some cases, some students already own pets. What are they supposed to do with them when they are allowed on the floor one year, but not the next? It seems unfair to force someone, who is willing and able to care for a pet, to get rid of it solely because someone on their floor dislikes hamsters, or is under the impression that rats are dirty.

I would like to propose a change to the system. If we implement pet-specific floors, there would be no need for a vote. Instead, students could list their preference when choosing where to live. If someone were severely allergic to hamsters, for example, they would have the opportunity to live somewhere that hamsters are not allowed.

Another solution would be to have students who wish to own a pet agree to a contract. This contract would essentially state that a student must maintain their pet, and if they fail to do so, they will no longer be allowed to keep a pet.

A student should be able to guarantee that having a pet will not poorly influence the hall. Instead of being at the mercy of their peers, we should give students the benefit of the doubt; if a student believes they would be able to keep their pet clean, quiet and in their room as not to disturb other students, they should be given a chance.

If a student failed to keep their pet up to these standards, their contract would be terminated. A student would be 100 percent responsible for their pet; if the pet were to escape and cause damage in the dorm, that student would be liable to pay for the damage.

These are just a couple of examples of what we can do to improve the pet policy for our students. No solution is perfect, of course, but I would like to see what changes can be made to make the pursuit of pet ownership more fair for our student body.