Students continue to break ‘No Pets’ policy in residence halls

Franklin the cat resides in an on-campus house, where he has lived since the beginning of the semester. Rescued by one of the residents, Franklin has made himself useful as a mouse catcher.  Like all animals, Franklin still experiences a yearning for the great outdoors.
“Sometimes we take him outside and hold him,” said one of his owners. “But you can tell that he misses it.”

Erica Belden, '10, kept her boa constrictor Maggie away from the eyes of the administration during her time at Allegheny.

For years, Allegheny students have kept stowaway pets in the dorms.  Guinea pigs, hamsters and other furry friends hide deep in the recesses of Schultz, Brooks, College Court and virtually every other dorm.
Erica Belden, ‘10 ,kept a small boa constrictor named Maggie in her dorm during her sophomore and senior years at Allegheny College.
“The only time it would’ve been a problem was when they did safety inspections,” Belden said.  “I would just put her in my car and drive around for a while.”
Allegheny has a strict policy regarding pets in the dorms: if it can’t survive underwater for more than ten minutes, it has to go.  In other words, fish are the only animals permitted.
“We get about five to eight cases reported to us each year,” said Joe Hall, assistant director of Residence Life. “We try to work with the students to find a new home for the animal.”
Missing pets that remain at home is a widespread motivation for campus lawbreakers to defy the authorities.
After months apart from her guinea pig Bullet, Megan Williams, ’14, decided that she must have a visit from her furry friend.   During the weekend-long visit, Williams said Bullet caused her no trouble at all and she enjoyed having his company. Although Bullet’s visit was short-lived, many other students are determined to keep their pets for the long haul.
Hall states that although Residence Life is considerate of the care of animals, having a pet in the dorms is a health and safety violation. However, Hall recognizes that many pets still remain at large in Allegheny housing.
One sophomore, who chooses to remain anonymous, finds comfort in her hamster, Peanut, who will need hidden upon dorm inspection.
“I’m not sure what I will do when my RA checks my room,” said Peanut’s owner.
Students have good reason to fear exposure. If caught, perpetrators are fined $20 per day until the animal is removed. In certain cases, the student may also be subject to disciplinary action.
Escapee pets are also among the worst fears for pet owners. Franklin has gone missing several times. Although he has always returned, it still makes his owners nervous that they will be discovered. Peanut almost let his whereabouts slip after he rolled out of his owner’s dorm in his hamster ball.
Belden was never caught by an RA for having Maggie in the dorms, whom she fed dead rats throughout the year.
“I wondered if they didn’t know or didn’t care,” Belden said.
Despite the possible ramifications, many students believe that the risk of secretly keeping a pet is worth the reward.
“I volunteer at the Humane Society and that really helps me de-stress. I could see the benefits of having a pet in the room,” said Kathleen Macie, ‘14.
“Franklin is definitely therapeutic,” his owner said. “My friends know about him and come visit.”