I want to fill you in on a new trend we read about in USA Today:  College students bringing their pets to school with them. They’re not hiding them in their dorm rooms – there are official residence halls at about a dozen colleges that have pet-friendly policies – and the number is growing. Washington and Jefferson College near Pittsburgh is one of the colleges with a pet friendly policy – and they say it’s a hit with the administration and with students. First of all, it brings animal lovers back on campus, where in the past they may have opted to live off campus – so that increases the college’s housing revenue. Besides, so many students smuggle animals onto campus, it’s better to have an open policy where the pets and their owners are monitored and held accountable. Plus, administrators realize that animals can reduce stress and make acclimating to college easier.

Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida now has 40 pets in residence and at Stephens College in Columbia Missouri they have more than 60 rooms that are home to cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs. Of course, there are those who don’t think college kids and pets are a good fit. Some animal experts say that college life is chaotic – and college kids make impulsive decisions. Plus most have no idea what they’ll be doing 4 years down the line, or where they’ll be living. As a result, shelters in a lot of college towns report end-of-semester animal dumping or abandonment. Some kids just don’t take into account that owning a pet is a 15 year commitment that costs hundreds of dollars a year for routine care – and thousands if your pet has any type of medical situation.

The ASPCA is cautiously optimistic about this trend – as long as the pet-owning students are monitored. That’s why most schools don’t allow recently acquired pets – they don’t want students spontaneously adopting pets because they want something cute and cuddly for a semester. The colleges will also take pets away from student owners if they’re not giving them the proper time, care and attention.