Do pets have a place on campus?

It is evident by the amount of pets spotted around campus that students at the University of San Diego love their furry friends. While most would think that USD is very pet-friendly given their presence on campus, in actuality, the university has a pretty strict policy regarding animals on campus.

University Policy #2.11.1 titled “Animals on university property” outlines that pets are limited to a very small section of campus.

“To promote a healthy and safe environment for the university community, the University of San Diego prohibits the presence of pets and other animals in all buildings, residence halls, athletic fields, outside dining areas, or other facilities that are owned, leased, operated or maintained by the university,” the policy stated. “Pets and other animals are not permitted at university events.”

The policy also specified where select pets are allowed. 

“Dogs are permitted on roads and outdoor grounds (other than those specified above) on the university campus, provided they are on a leash,” the policy stated. “The owner is responsible for controlling the animal’s behavior and for promptly removing and disposing of the animal’s waste. All dogs on campus must be tagged, licensed, and vaccinated in accordance with California law. Dogs may not be tied to trees or other structures and may not be left unattended.”

There are some exceptions to this policy that the university mentions. These include guide and service dogs, animals used for academic research or public safety needs, classroom pets at the Manchester Childhood Development Center, pets of employees living in university-owned housing, and fish in a tank smaller than 10 gallons. However, for the most part, the animals we see around campus seem to be violating the university’s animal policy. Some students are aware of the campus policies but choose to disregard them.

Senior Kelly Gardner recounted that when her older sister went to USD, she and her roommates got around the pet policy and had a cat living with them in student housing.

“She got [her cat] Fred in October in the Vistas and had no problems with him,” Gardner said. “He is a really quiet cat, so it was easy to hide him, and they never had any problems. My sister completely took care of him, so her roommates didn’t mind at all. It was nice to be able to go up to her place and hang out with Fred for some pet therapy. The next year, my sister ran into her [Resident Assistant] from the Vistas on campus and asked her if she knew they had a cat, and she had no idea. Some other girls I know got a cat in the Vistas the year after my sister had Fred there because they knew about him, but that cat was very vocal, so they got caught and had to return him to the humane society.”

While some students are able to sneakily avoid the pet policies, other students that wish to legally have pets living on campus with them have to go through a very detailed process with the school.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, described this process.

“[My dog] is in the process of getting registered as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) through the school,” the student said. “He’s already registered, he just has to be approved by the school now. Basically, first you meet with the [Community Director], and then you have to get a therapist to verify that you do need an ESA. Then, you meet with Health and Wellness, and they verify your need as well. Then, there are meetings with [Residential Life], my RAs, and my roommates.”

The student shared that she thinks the process is a little over the top.

“[The university] requires an off-campus therapist to prescribe me my dog, which I find a bit frustrating because therapy isn’t the only way to wellness,” the student said. “I have been in therapy, but it was never as effective as other routes. So to ask me to go find a therapist, when I haven’t been to one in about a year, outside of the school to prescribe [my dog] to me is a bit frustrating. I think we should be able to meet with health and wellness, explain our situation, and leave it to their discretion.”

The student added that, as long as the animal is safe and everyone living with the animal is okay with it, the school should accept that.

“I think the animal should have to be approved through the school to ensure no one is keeping a puppy or some animal that’s not suited to live in an apartment,” the student said. “However, [the school] seemed more concerned in making sure I’m not ‘faking it’ than anything, which is honestly a bit insulting. It’s not comfortable for me to admit ‘oh yeah I need an ESA,’ so I don’t like having to convince people. Why would I make that up? If I’m willing to pay for this dog to be registered, come forth to the school, and go through this process, why would I make it up? Additionally, even if I were willing to go through this process and had an animal suited to live in my apartment and my roommates were okay with it, what harm is the dog doing even if I were, for some ridiculous reason, faking it?”

While some of the animals spotted on campus are surely registered as emotional support animals, it is clear others are simply pets being brought onto campus and let off leash. Although most students seem to welcome the sight of other people’s furry friends on campus, it is unfair for some students to have to go through a lengthy process of registering their pets, while others remain, unbothered by the university’s policy. Perhaps it is time for the university to adopt a more pet-friendly policy to accommodate for those that wish to have pets and can be responsible pet owners on campus. Otherwise, the fair thing to do is to enforce the policy for everyone, as to not favor certain students over others.

By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor