According to The Humane Society and the ASPCA, 39 percent of the U.S. population owns a dog, 33 percent owns a cat and 62 percent of households own a pet of some kind. However, at Ramapo College students are not allowed to have pets.
According to the Guide to Community Living “all pets (with the exception of fish in a tank smaller than 10 gallons) are prohibited.”
“Our rules are very straightforward… there are several different reasons why we are not allowed to have pets, cleanliness being a big one, allergies being another big one,” said Kristalyn Feliciano, assistant resident director of Laurel Hall. “So I know they’re cute, I know they’re furry [and] I’m a big pet lover myself, but it’s just not the appropriate place for pets to be.”
Despite these rules and the $50 fine attached to each offense, students are frequently caught with illegal animals.
“This year there have been a lot of incidents with illegal pets,” Feliciano said. “I don’t know what the cause of that is, why the numbers rose, but definitely I have seen more this year than in the past.”
Feliciano said the resident assistants enforce pet rules by first giving students 24 hours to remove the pet if one is found during a health and safety room inspection. If the pet is still found after the notice period, students are charged with a $50 fine. Public Safety is contacted if the pet is still not removed.
According to Feliciano, however, students feel like they can get away with having these illegal pets in nontraditional dorms like the CPAs, the Village or Laurel Hall because students live in individual rooms and are not subject to constant supervision.
“When there isn’t a hallway involved, you don’t need to hide them to take them out to the car or down the hallway and stuff like that, ” senior Carrie Lenahan said. “I think that the rules are a bit excessive… and whenever people are told they have to get rid of their animals, they just end up throwing them outside, and I feel like that’s even worse.”
Students often find it difficult to transport these animals to a new location, and it is the animal that suffers the consequences.
Senior Jovan Naidoo described a situation where a friend of his got caught having a kitten, so he tried to get others to take care of it.
“The kitten ended up dying because these people didn’t take good care of it,” Naidoo said.
Even students without illegal pets on campus shared sympathy with those who want to have them.
“I’m all for it, but it’s a touchy subject. What happens if someone has an allergic reaction and gets sick? If you have a dog and it bites you that would be an issue,” senior Jarryd Lentini said. “For you to have a pet, you should have to take a class. Then you could mark which rooms are allowed to have pets and which are not.”
Currently, the only exception to this rule is authorized service or support animals. However, residents with documented disabilities must be given permission by the Office of Specialized Services in order to have a pet in their residence hall.
“The College does have a policy that allows for services animals and for emotional support animals are both allowed with supporting documentation from a physician for students who have a documented disability,” said Missy Long, an academic advisor for the OSS.
At Ramapo, Long said that there are very few cases in which students are permitted to have service animals, but those students requiring these accommodations are not treated differently because of their needs.
These students are held responsible for their animals and the animals must be under full control of their owners, according to Long. However, this exception does not grant access to all students, and Long hopes students can make the distinction.
“For any student thinking this is a way to get a pet on campus, this is absolutely not,” Long said. “Very specific documents are necessary to get this approved so it’s not necessarily an easy road, but we do think it’s in the best interest of our students.”
For now, students will continue to be subject to fines, and Residence Life will actively monitor for any pet violations.
“If I saw [an animal on campus], I would approach the situation and try to get some information out of them and follow up with them privately… I’d try and give them an opportunity to get rid of it,” said Feliciano.