When students move away from home to attend college for the first time, it can be nice to have a little company.
“If you’ve had a pet your whole life, like you’ve had a dog or a cat at home, and you can’t have those here, it’s always good to have something,” said Alejandra Ramirez, 20, a Murphree Area resident assistant and a math and statistics junior.
The list of pets allowed in UF dorms includes gerbils, lizards, frogs, salamanders and geckos, according to UF’s Housing and Residence Education pet policy agreement. Fish, hamsters, birds and chinchillas are most popular, said Ayesha Rizvi Mian, the residence life coordinator for the Broward Yulee Area.
“We don’t allow guinea pigs anymore, because they can get really big, and the smell they generate was a big concern for people,” she said.
According to the pet policy agreement form, residents must obtain prior written approval from all roommates and their resident life coordinator, residence director, graduate hall director or resident manager before bringing the pet into their rooms.
Only two pets from the approved pet list are allowed per resident. Fish are the only exception. All pets are also required to remain inside the rooms or apartments at all times, according to housing and residence education’s community standard.
“The worry we have over those things is that they could get out of the cage, and what if they get into somebody’s stuff?” Mian said. “Sometimes they’ve gotten into the AC vent, and then we couldn’t find them.”
Becky Giallella, a 21-year-old occupational therapy senior, said she used to have a mouse in her dorm. She said she didn’t feel it was fair to the mouse to live in that environment, and it was too much to take care of.
“I don’t even think it’s fair to the animal to be in a small cage,” Mian said. “They don’t get the place to be active.”
But having the company of pets can often be beneficial to students’ mental health.
“Having something that you can hold or play with, and having something that depends on you just makes you feel good,” said Jennifer Becker, a 19-year-old exploratory sophomore who keeps a dwarf rabbit in her dorm.
Mian said students in her area are very responsible with their pets.
“We are very lucky. Our students really take care of their animals,” she said. “They take their responsibility seriously, and I think that’s why this policy has become so successful.”
Animal sciences freshman Sierra Wilson, 18, looks at her Delta Tail Betta fish, Alexei, in her dorm room. She says it’s comforting having a pet in her dorm. “It reminds me of my dog at home,” Wilson said.