At the forefront of the pet-friendly university movement is Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. Think of them as being like the Continental Airlines of colleges -- they have a solid pet program in place that has inspired the formulation of others across the nation, and they make pets' (and people's) well-being a priority.
Recently we interviewed Tonya Womack, the Staff Adviser to the Pet Council at Eckerd, who gave us the run-down on the school's policies, history and pet-friendly future. Thanks for sharing with us, Tonya, and have a great school year!
According to our archives, in the 1972/73 academic year a pet policy was created. The reason we started a pet council and created a pet policy was because we noticed that students were bringing their little creatures to campus and there were no policies or procedures to deal with issues that we might come up against.
How did you draft your pet policy?
Our policy was drafted by creating what would work best for the college. Because there are only a handful of colleges or universities that have a pet policy, it was hard to turn to others for help. Staff and students have generated this policy, and we feel it represents what is best for us.
I don't believe the rules have changed. They have more or less been adapted to fit the population as well as maintain the welfare of the animals. We have separated animals into two categories: pets, which are cats, dogs (under 40 pounds), rabbits, ducks, and ferrets, and domestic animals, which are fish, small birds, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, amphibians, and reptiles.
We have adapted our policy so that students cannot bring animals to campus that the Pet Council would feel would not be sufficient for college life. We do only have five houses on campus where a student can have a "pet." In all the remaining houses on campus, students can have a "domestic animal."
How has Eckerd been a model for other college pet programs?
Eckerd has been a model for other colleges and universities because we have been able to share our policies and procedures as well as given insight into what works and what doesn't work. Schools are contacting us now with questions on how to propose the idea of having pets/animals on campus to the upper administration.
Do you know of any instances where a student has specifically chosen to attend Eckerd because it is pet-friendly?
There are several stories where students have chosen Eckerd because it is pet-friendly. We recently filmed an episode of Must Love Cats on Animal Planet and the student stated that she chose Eckerd because we allowed pets. She was able to be thousands miles away from home and bring her cat with her. I believe that is typical of a lot of the stories that we hear.
Do you have any memorable stories about pets on campus that you’d like to share?
I believe my favorite story to tell is the story of one student that had two ducks as pets. Those ducks would follow her around everywhere she went. The student was also a Resident Advisor and a member of the Softball team. The ducks were well known and brought a sense of pride to the community because you could not go to any other college or university and say that there was a student that had a duck there.
Do most students transport their pets to campus by car or by air?
Most students transport their pets by car. There is a small majority that will transport them by air. Some students will purchase the domestic animals (like fish and turtles) once they arrive to campus if they choose.
Do you see this as growing trend or one that has leveled off? Do you have any changes or expansions in mind for the future?
This is definitely a growing trend. We have seen an increase in the number of students that have requested pet housing on campus. The Housing Department also increased the number of pet houses from four to five. We have also been receiving a lot of national recognition about our pet policy that has assisted. Our Admissions Department also does a great job in letting prospective students know about this amazing feature of our campus life.
Be sure to check in with us tomorrow, when we'll be back with more information about the rising trend of pet-friendly college life.