ResLife alters campus pet policy to only allow fish

Oswego State put a new pet policy into effect last month that only allows students living on campus to bring fish in aquariums up to 20 gallons as pets.

This is a major change from the school’s former policy that allowed students to bring a much wider array of pets, which mostly consisted of small rodents and reptiles.

“The pet policy included a wide variety of pets,” said Assistant Dean for Students for Resident Life and Housing, Richard Kolenda. “Things over the years that were added include: soap dish crabs, lobster, which felt like the hot pet to have at the time, gerbils, and guinea pigs, among others. Things not allowed were sugar gliders, cats, dogs and other large animals.” Kolenda said.

Even with the change, Oswego State is part of a small amount of schools that allow pets of any kind. According to the 2011 Kaplan Survey of College Admissions Officers, only 38 percent of the universities surveyed permit pets of any kind on campus; 99 percent of which allow fish. The survey also stated that 25 percent of the colleges let students bring reptiles, 10 percent allow dogs, and 8 percent allow cats.

The policy was changed for multiple reasons, which were typical problems that arise when large groups of people are around pets. These problems include: allergies, fears and escaped pets.

“A number of different things happened over time,” Kolenda said. “Some students could be allergic and some animals could escape. We once had a snake that crawled into the wall and died there. There was also a small python that got out and was gone for three days and we found it coiled up in a vent. We haven’t allowed big pets on campus for the same reasons because students could be allergic and the damage they could cause when they escape. There are many students who are afraid of dogs, cats and other animals.”

The school had very clear reasons to keep fish on the list since the problems given for the policy change can’t in any way be caused by a fish.

“Fish are easily contained and if they get away, where are they going to go? They’ll just flop on the ground and die if they get out,” Kolenda said. “They’re not going to get away. And it mostly takes direct contact from a fish to have an allergic reaction to it if someone is allergic to fish. Fish are safe to the people and safe to the environment.”

Some students feel that the policy can work while others aren’t certain yet if it will or not. Most students, however, aren’t drastically affected by the change but can understand why certain people aren’t happy about it.

“I think the pet policy is good on a certain level,” said freshman Alicia Britton. “You don’t want really loud, stinky and noisy pets on campus. But, at the same time, if the pets aren’t a nuisance it should be fine.”

“The new pet policy doesn’t affect me really since I don’t bring my pet, but I can understand why people who do have pets are upset about it,” said junior and Johnson Hall Resident Mentor Kyle Martindale.

Some students did make it clear that if they had the opportunity to bring their larger pets with them, they would easily do so.

“I have two dogs back home,” Martindale said. “If I could bring them, I’d love to. It would be heaven.”

Some students said bringing a large pet, such as a dog or a cat, would make students happier and less stressed about school, but at the risk of having it interfere with school and social life.

“Pros would be that student stress levels would be lower and people would be less homesick. Cons would have to be the noise and the clean-up,” Martindale said.

“Some pros would be that you wouldn’t miss them and you wouldn’t have to worry about somebody else taking care of them. Some of the cons are that your roommate may not like them and they could become a burden,” Britton said.

Certain students feel that it would be easy to balance going to school and taking care of a pet while some of the schools more experienced students feel that their colleagues aren’t quite up to the task yet.

When Martindale was asked if he could take care of a pet, he said, “Me, yes. The majority of people, no. People are generally too immature and irresponsible to take care of a pet.”