Students move off campus, adopt animals


Many students at the University find a way to balance school, friends and having a pet.

The University does not allow pets in the dorms with a few exceptions such as fish or guide dogs, according to Carla Dennis, the interim director for administrative service and communication.

“There are a lot of students who have some severe or even mild pet allergies, where pet dander would greatly impact their living experience,” she said.  “Even other issues, like pest control. Some of our students have some very strong fears of different animals, and that would not make for a comfortable living and learning environment.”

Dennis said University Housing doesn’t allow for pets, with few exceptions, due to an overall concern for both students and pets.

“It is an awareness of what are the needs for pets, what are the needs of students, what are the needs of our facilities,” she said.

Because pets are not allowed in dorms, after fulfilling the first-year live on requirement, many students move off campus so they can bring animals.

Allie Merdinger, a junior pre-business major and Spanish minor from Alpharetta, feels having a pet is definitely beneficial.

Many students agree and own pets, despite increased work and having to financially support a pet by paying for food, care and pet fees.

While most people, Merdinger included, have more traditional pets like cats or dogs, she said she has heard of some strange choices.

“My best friend’s roommate has a teacup pig as a pet.  It gets up to 6 or 7 pounds, and it is supposed to be super clean.  You can train it like a dog,” she said.  “I haven’t met the teacup pig yet but it’s on my to-do list.”

Merdinger got her pet, a dog, during her sophomore year.

“I got Sarge second semester sophomore year, the Friday of spring break,” she said.  “It was just kind of a no-brainer that I would get a dog to have with me all the time.”

Merdinger said she believes having a pet adds a lot of responsibility.

“I think it’s just making sure that you are planning your schedule around the dog and not be so selfish.  You have to make sure that you do have time for a dog because you do have to take care of it.  You can’t just throw it in your apartment,” she said.

Hannah Edwards, a junior health promotion major on a pre-med track from Woodstock, also has a dog.  She moved off campus her sophomore year so she could bring her dog Atticus.

“I got him for my 16th birthday, honestly. Mom was finally like, ‘OK, you can have a puppy.’ I had always wanted one,” Edwards said.  “My mom kept him for me my first year, and he has been here last year and this year. “

She said she also feels having a dog is a lot of additional responsibility that non-pet owners don’t have.

“When you schedule your classes you have to think about your dog and your animal,“ she said. “You can’t stay on campus all day, and when you have a break you have to come home and walk your dog and feed him and take him out in the morning.  That is an extra 30 minutes you have to be up in the morning.”

Though a pet is more work, owners agreed it is worth it.

Merdinger said the extra work is well worth it and the benefits of having a pet outweigh the difficulties.

“It is a really easy and great way to meet people, just walking around my apartment complex. You have a dog, and everyone wants to be your friend,” she said. “He is a fantastic reason to get up in the morning, and it motivates me to just get everything done. If it weren’t for him, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be walking 30 hours a week.”

Edwards agreed having a pet is worth it, but said she was surprised by how many students own dogs, despite the increased responsibility.

“The students here absolutely love their dogs. Everyone loves their animals, and I would never have imagined that as many students would have dogs as they do because it is such a big responsibility,” she said. “I could not imagine living here without him.”