Eckerd opened its campus to pets in 1973 to manage animals kept here illegally. The school created new rules to ensure these pets got proper care, but students habitually break them. It’s time to end that pattern.
The program Eckerd created is called Pet-Life, and its purpose is to oversee the health of students and their on-campus pets. Since it began, the program has developed fair and ethical rules. Today, students petition these rules at their pets’ expense.
Many owners will claim they are able to take care of these pets, but why risk the experiment? Pets deserve a life less hectic than college— especially dogs.
Pet Life requires dogs to be under 40 pounds, over one year old, have lived with the student for 10 months prior to Eckerd, have all vaccinations and be fixed. These are modest restrictions, but one look at Eckerd’s diverse animal population shows how many students use loopholes to get their dogs onto campus.
A common loophole is registering a dog as an Emotional Support Animal, or ESA. Many students register ESAs to provide legitimate emotional support, but other students use the label to bring large or untrained dogs to college.
Registering a dog as an ESA for reasons other than emotional support is insulting to people who need them, and inconsiderate for a dog’s needs. Students must be reminded that Eckerd’s pet policies are not made to oppress them but are made to protect dogs.
According to Lauren Burr, director of student life, Pet Life used input from local veterinarians and pet owners to create their common sense rules. But even though Eckerd dog owners claim to be responsible, they consistently break the most fundamental rules: giving dogs prior training and following the weight limit.
Aggressive and neurotic dogs have no place at Eckerd because college is a bad place to train them. This is why dogs are required to live with their owners for a year before coming to school. Responsible pet owners should understand this, because training requires an intensive time commitment and neutral environment.
Similarly, the under 40 pound rule is common sense. Large breeds need more space than a dorm room. One blogger and Bouvier breed specialist, Pam Green, wrote that large dogs can do well in a small space, as long as the space is larger than the Apollo 11 capsule. Many campus dorm rooms, taking roommates and cluttered furniture into account, are not.
But space and proper training are still only half the problem.
Loud parties and marijuana smoke are bound to be present in some college dorms. At Eckerd, there are pet-friendly dorms, and there are health and wellness dorms that are free from drugs and alcohol. These dorms do not overlap, and dogs pay the price.
Two of the Kappa complex’s four houses allow large pets like dogs and cats. Kappa is also known as the party dorm where the Community Standards Incident Review Committee (CSIRC) often allows amplified music. Dogs’ ears are highly sensitive to loud noise, like fireworks on Independence Day. Eckerd parties are like Independence Day every weekend.
We should still feel proud of being the most pet friendly college in the U.S., but as a student body we should also respect our pets.
Pet Life’s policies exist for a reason, and students should use them as the ground rules of on-campus pet ownership. But dog owners in particular need to go beyond these requirements and be personally responsible for their animals. Every one of them deserves the best life they can get, even if it means a life away from Eckerd.