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Can I take the family pet to college? Will caretaking be too hard and is it even allowed?

I'm in high school hoping to go into either a health or law profession after college. I am currently undecided about which university I want to go to and what my major will be. #college

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Meghan’s Answer

Good question, Harry. It's also a tough question, if you're an animal lover or have grown up with a family pet. In short, I wouldn't suggest brining your family pet to college because taking care of it will be hard.

Things to consider:

- You'll want to check your college's policies however, in most cases, pets are not allowed if you're living in on-campus housing/dorms. There are some exceptions for pets registered as a service or emotional support animal. Off-campus housing may not have as many pet restrictions. But again, you'll want to check your college's policies and/or landlord policies.

- Your first year away at college can be a big change. Navigating campus and classes, meeting new people, attending events, possibly joining a club, maybe getting a job, etc. All of these things take time, energy, and commitment, including caring for a pet.

- Will you be taking back-to-back classes, leaving your pet unattended for hours? Does your roommate like pets? Who will watch your pet if your campus is sponsoring a weekend trip and you want to go? What if your pet gets sick, is there a vet nearby? Are you comfortable with the cost of owning a pet: cost of food, cost of medicine, cost of vet visits? Will your pet adjust to the new environment? There are so many things to consider.

I can relate to this question. I attended college out-of-state, five hours away from home, and I didn't have a car. This meant I wasn't able to see my dog for months and months, until holiday/summer break. I deeply cared for my dog. Although it was difficult, I look back and think about so many opportunities I would have missed out on if I was caring for my dog while attending college.

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Sara’s Answer

As the former Secretary to the Dean of Students at Bard College, I don’t recommend taking the family pet to college. If you live on campus, it’s a violation of your housing agreement- and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to rescue pets that students simply left locked in a dorm room at the end of semester- and in winter, if you’re school is in snow country, unoccupied dorms are un heated…
If you live off campus, will you be able to walk, feed, and care for a pet while going to class and participating in the social life of college? Will you have transportation available for vetting? Will your student residence be safe for them?
Lastly, if your pet has any separation anxiety, it’s not fair to put them into such a situation.
So, my answer is No.

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Jaida’s Answer

Hi Harry!

Moving away to college can be hard. If you plan to live in student housing, typically only registered service or emotional support animals can come along. Keep in mind, you will most likely have a roommate and live in very small space, so having a pet may be more difficult than at home. Most pets are used to a schedule of eating, sleeping, and going outside and establishing a routine like this can be nearly impossible with classes, homework, and other activities. Bringing a pet along without registering them can have grave consequences, such as losing your dorm housing, so I would not suggest it.

If you live in an apartment, you might be able to have a dog if the contract permits however this does not discredit the fact that the dog is a lot of work to take care of.

I would suggest going to college, establishing your routine and living environment and then maybe bringing your pet along after winter break if everything looks to work out!

Jaida recommends the following next steps:

Research where you will be living and if you can have pets

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Richard’s Answer

If you live in a private apartment, you can have any pet that the apartment allows. Typically, on-campus housing does not allow any pets. If you move off campus and your apartment allows for a pet, I would highly recommend thinking about the decision thoroughly before going through with it. Taking care of many types of pet requires lots of care and you need to consider if you have the time to care for a pet.

If you want to pursue medicine, you will have a rigorous courseload and may not have the time you need to properly care for the family pet.