Linfield College intends to crack the dorm room door just a bit, to let Fido, Spot or Fluffy scurry in.
Lots of colleges allow fish or small animals in cages – as well as documented service animals. But the small, private college in McMinnville, Oregon, plans to open a dorm to cats and small dogs more generally next fall, joining a cadre of about 20 such colleges across the country.
The shepherd of the policy in Linfield’s administration is Vice President of Student Affairs Susan Hopp, who started her career at the extremely pet-friendly Eckerd College on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
“Boa constrictors, falcons, gigantic Irish wolfhounds — one of which was eaten by an alligator. I mean, I’ve seen this,” Hopp recalled with a laugh.
She said Linfield will not go nearly that far.
“Our program is going to be much more managed, and I think low-key, than that one was,” Hopp said.
Rather than a chaotic, wildlife takeover, Hopp anticipates that bringing animals onto campus will make life more relaxed for stressed-out students adjusting to college life.
“We think it might help students adjust faster, and we want every student to have a positive living, learning situation – so it might just do that,” Hopp said.
She noted there were two events that spurred interest in allowing students to have pets in their dorm rooms. Administrators noticed that when faculty members brought their dogs to campus, they’d be surrounded by fawning undergrads. Also, Linfield has had a positive experience bringing therapy animals of various kinds, such as dogs and llamas, to campus during exam weeks.
Linfield has put some strict rules in place for students interested in having pets with them. Administrators say the degree of compliance with the rules may determine whether the pet policies survive the two-year pilot period.
“The future of this pet privilege rests upon the successful administration of the policy and the willingness of students to abide by and enforce the policy,” Linfield’s pet policy says.
Under the policy, students can’t just adopt an animal from a nearby shelter and bring it immediately to their dorm room. Pets have to be a personal or family pet they’ve known for at least six months. Students also can’t just spring the animal on their roommate. The pet policy requires every occupant of the dorm room signs off on it. Tags are required, too, with the animal’s name and its room number.
The examples of exotic animals that Hopp recalled from her days at Eckart College are expressly forbidden; dogs would have to be under 40 pounds when full-grown (so Irish Wolfhounds need not apply). In addition, Linfield is not allowing animals that require special permits in Oregon, so boa constrictors, falcons and alligators are all excluded.
Linfield is restricting the new pet allowances to one dorm — the Jane Failing residence hall — starting in fall 2019.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Eckerd College. OPB regrets the error.