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Living at a Pet Friendly College: The Stephens Pet Program

Updated on February 3, 2013

I have been a resident of the Stephens College Pet Dorms since my Freshman year of college.

This year Stephens was rightfully ranked the most pet friendly college in the country. Allowing pets to reside in college dorms is a surprisingly controversial topic, and not one that many people have the experience to give a justified opinion on. As a student who has been living in pet friendly dorms for two and a half years, I would like to share my thoughts on the program.

To give you a little bit of background, I am completing a 3 year 2 summer BFA degree at Stephens College this coming May. Until last summer I lived in the pet dorms with my Shetland Sheepdog, Taffy. Taffy was diagnosed with congestive heart failure my 2nd year of school, and passed away that summer. Upon returning to the dorms at the beginning of the semester I adopted my current dog, Lily. My experience adopting Lily made me realize the high demand shelters have for foster homes. Since Stephens allows students to foster pets, Lily and I now have a third roommate - my foster cat, Delilah.

Stephens allows most types of animals to live in the dorms (cats, dogs, rodents, lizards, sugar gliders, potbellied pigs). Typically students that have pets live without a roommate in a large room (originally designated for two people before the pet program started). More details can be found about the Stephens College pet program by following the link in the "Further Reading" section to the Stephens website.

Below are the what I consider to be the highlights of the pet program.

Education is going to the dogs.  My neighbor/best friend, Emily, reads a book out loud while Taffy listens attentively.
Education is going to the dogs. My neighbor/best friend, Emily, reads a book out loud while Taffy listens attentively.

Benefits for Students

Sense of Community - The girls that lived on my floor Freshman year were like a family unit, which I know was not the case on most of the non-pet floors. Most of us purchased baby gates so that we could leave our doors open, and a good portion of our time was spent chatting in the hallways while our pets played together. The girls with pets see each other all the time - in the halls, in the fenced in yards, in the cafeteria - and we always stop to chat. I met a lot of my best friends in college because of my dog.

Moral Support - Coming home to a wagging tail got me through my first two years of school. When Taffy passed away I was not myself. Now that I have Lily I am starting to recover. No one knows how to make you feel needed and loved quite like a pet.

Physical wellness - Every day, rain or shine, I walk down three flights of stairs, out the front door of the dorms, around the quad, and back up three flights of stairs at least 6-7 times. That is a lot of walking and a lot of stairs. And that does not include the playing ball and running agility courses and the wrestling that occur on a daily basis. Not to mention chasing the escape-artist cat down the hallway.

Emotional Wellness -
A) My dog gives stellar hugs. Who else is going to give you hugs at an all women's college?
B) I laugh and smile more at my dog in ten minutes than I do for the rest of my day - she sounds like a dinosaur, she is weirdly flexible, and she has no fear. It's a funny combination. As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine.

Reduced Conflict - Having a pet roommate instead of a human roommate leads to a happier, more stress free place to call home. Admittedly Lily is much more mischievous than Taffy ever was.

Learning to Balance Career and Family - School is good. Being successful is good. My family is far more important than all of that. Having a pet during college teaches you that even if you are as busy as all get out, you still need to put your family first. In the end the happiness of the people and animals you love is what is going to determine your own happiness. Not your career.

Keeping a Schedule - I have to keep a schedule for the dog, which keeps me on a schedule. I do not stay up all night. I do not sleep through classes. If the dog has to pee the dog has to pee, and I better be awake and present at the right times to make that happen in a satisfactory location.

Teaches Responsibility - I know this sounds cliché, but you can go through college caring only about yourself, or you can go through college and worry about your pet. And then maybe your self. If you have time. When Taffy was diagnosed with congestive heart failure I suddenly became responsible for vet visits, correct administration of pills (4-5 pills, 4-5 times a day), keeping her on a heart healthy diet, and making sure she did not overexert herself. Meanwhile I was taking an 18 hour course load and going to rehearsals 5 hours a night. I learned quickly to make lists and set priorities.

Desk?  What desk?  The cat has proudly claimed the desk as her own.
Desk? What desk? The cat has proudly claimed the desk as her own.

Benefits for Pets

Exposure - And by exposure I mean your pet will be exposed to everything. They are around dogs, people, cats, pigs, ferrets. You name it and they have probably experienced it by the time they are through at Stephens College. Since Lily is still young I am taking advantage of our last year here to prepare her for the real world. We go everywhere, explore everything, and she is one of the most well adjusted dogs you will ever meet.

Extra Attention - Taffy used to be overjoyed to come back to campus after spending a holiday at home. Being in a dorm room with your animal all the time means that 100% of the time you are home you are with them. When you take them out on a walk a swarm of people will stop to croon and pet them. Especially if your animal happens to be a potbellied pig. Or a cat on a leash.

Community - How many people do you know who can say their dog has at least nine best friends (that are dogs)? My pup has a unique relationship with each of her doggie friends and she picks up funny habits from all of them. Taffy was best friends with a giant rabbit. But that's another story.

Foster Program - Girls who do not have a pet to bring can foster a pet. Every foster animal that stays at Stephens is an animal the Columbia shelters would have otherwise had to put down. (My first foster cat, Delilah, is going to her forever home in a few days!). One of the local shelters recently started a scholarship program with Stephens that gives scholarship money to incoming students who foster a pet and spend a few hours a month volunteering at the shelter.

Benefits for the College

Recruiting - Stephens College uses it's pet friendly campus as one of the main marketing techniques to bring in new students. The program has grown to encompass two whole dorm buildings and part of a third building. In the two years I have been at school, the program has doubled in size.

Filling the Dorms - The pet dorms are the cheapest single rooms on campus, but they are still more expensive than a double room. Girls rooming with their pets are paying more for their room than they would be if they were living with a human roommate.


I would love to answer your questions if you are interested in attending a pet friendly college or if you are just curious about the experience. Here is to spending the 'best years of your life' with 'man's best friend'.

Read More About my Adventures in the Pet Dorms

The Danger of Laser Pointer Toys for Pets - Laser pointer toys are likely to cause dogs and certain cats to develop OCD.

Interior Design with Your Pet in Mind - Ideas on blending pet accessories and supplies (which can be an eyesore) in to the design of your home.

Why People Look Like their Pets - This article explores the psychological reasons the people often share similar characteristics with their pets.

Potty Training a Shelter Dog - Shelter dogs come with additional challenges, especially in the case of potty training. This article explores ways to potty train dogs who have already developed bad habits.

Preparing the Pup for the Cold Without Breaking the Budget - Some dogs are not properly equipped for the winter months, and this article suggests ways to keep your dog warm without spending a fortune on designer doggie sweater.


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    • profile image

      kiersten sipes 3 years ago

      How many pets can you have in one room

    • A r F profile image

      Allison 5 years ago

      DrMark- I spent a great deal of time at the UM Vet Hospital when my dog Taffy was sick. Everyone there was so nice and helpful. They actually made me consider becoming a vet. That's great that you went to school there.

      Nettlemere - I can't get past the fact that your college had a herd of pigs. That's great. I lived in Hawaii when I was younger and remember very well the pains of getting the dog through quarantine, so I can imagine that agricultural forms would make having a pet pig far less appealing.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I'm amazed you are allowed pigs - that's one thing we wouldn't have been allowed for fear of somehow causing disease in the main college herd and I think keeping a pig in the UK you have to fill out ministry of agriculture forms every time you move it anywhere, which must be a bit trying.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      This is so great! I expected you to say some college in Colorado. I attended UM College of Veterinary Medicine so am familiar with Stephens. Everything sounds great for you and Lily.

    • A r F profile image

      Allison 5 years ago

      Melissa - The pet dorms are my favorite thing about Stephens. I had to spend two summer semesters without a pet and I was much more stressed out in comparison. I would love for you to share a link to my hub, I'm glad that you like it.

      daisydayz- Most of the animals do great with each other, but we keep close tabs on who gets along with who and act accordingly. A lot of the dogs learn to behave themselves around other animals while they are here. I think there are only about 12 colleges in the US that allow pets (other than hamsters and goldfish), so I hope the policy becomes more wide spread. We do a have a pig - I think she's actually a mini pig - name Truffles. She is leash trained and she is very popular. What kind of rabbits do you have? My friend Emily, who is pictured in the article, had a flemish giant for a while. Before that I didn't know rabbits could be so large.

      Nettlemere - I never thought about the policies at vet schools concerning personal pets - that is great that they make accommodations for their students in that regard.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I found this very interesting and wish more places would have a pro pet policy. I chose my college on the basis that I could take my pets there with me. Unfortunately they weren't allowed in the halls of residence (although quite a lot of us did sneak pet hamsters in) but there were kennels for the dogs and I had rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, terrapins in the animal house. It was an agricultural college with animal care and vet nursing courses, so there were loads of animals about.

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      What an amazing idea. I don't think they have this in the UK! I suppose it can only work if your pet is friendly to other animals too. And did anyone actually have a pot bellied pig, that would be hilarious. I have bunnies, one is called Delilah too, the other is Jasper!

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 5 years ago from New York

      Single rooms, no human room mates, and pets including pot bellied pigs? Sounds like a paradise! I would never go away to college based on having to live with people and without animals, but this actually makes going away sound enticing. I'm pleased that this school is open to some forms of alternative pets and what a great idea to have students foster shelter animals in a responsible environment. I love this article, I think I'll post a link in one of my upcoming ones about the benefits of pet ownership.