Leaving for college can be an anxious time. New space. New classes. New friends. It would be nice to have something familiar with you. Could it be your dog?
There are a few things to consider first.
You may bring your dog to college if:
- Your dog is a service dog or
- You are attending a school that allows dogs
There are a small number of schools that allow this but places are limited.
The thoughts of leaving for college without your furry friend might be just too much to bear. There are a few options you can consider before you leave.
Choose a college that allows a dog
Believe it or not, there are some colleges that allow you to bring your dog to college. The number is very small, however, approximately 36, and as you can imagine spaces fill up quickly. If it is something that you think you wish to pursue you need to be checking this out way back at the start of college application season.
If you are interested, I have a post about How early should you submit your college application?
Each college that allows a pet on campus has very specific rules around your pooch attending college with you. But those that do have embraced the idea that pet attendance is good for the mental health and wellbeing of students. Some of these rules are as follows
- Your dog may have to be below a certain size or weight
- You can’t just arrive with your dog, you need to pre-register
- You may have to pay for a single room
- If in shared accommodation, your roommates will have to agree
- Your dog must be spayed/neutered
- All shots and vaccinations must be up to date
- Some breeds are not allowed
- There may be an additional fee that must be paid
- Dogs must be on a leash when outside your room
- Must have name tags and anti-rabies shot tag
All of the above rules seem to me to be pretty reasonable. If a college is allowing you to bring your dog then you must be fully responsible and accountable for them.
The college has to think about all of their students and they can’t have dogs wandering around without an owner. Or having a dorm smelling really bad.
If you would like to read more about dorms, the following posts may be a good read;
Do you get to see your dorm before you move in
Living in dorms – 5 tips to survival
You need to really consider is bringing your dog is the best option for your dog. Unless of course you literally cannot live without your dog. This may be the case if you have a Service Dog or an Emotional Support Dog, which is an entirely different situation.
Is your Dog a Service Dog or an Emotional Support Dog?
If you have a Service Dog then you are entitled to attend any college. Service Dogs differ from Emotional Support Dogs as they are trained to do one or more specific tasks to aid with a disability. Your school of choice is only allowed to ask you two questions regarding your service dog:
Is it a service dog?
What task is it trained to perform?
You do not have to show them this task in action.
Your service dog is allowed in all areas of your campus, including class. You would be well advised to speak to your professors and take a look at some of the classroom environments before you move, to ensure that you and your dog are going to be in the best place possible for your needs.
An Emotional Support dog is treated slightly differently. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not cover Emotional Support dogs. These are covered by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). Emotional Support dogs are not allowed to attend class on campus. They are seen to aid in emotional support rather than medical or disability aid. You may be required to submit a letter from a therapist or doctor outlining your need for your emotional support dog on campus.
There are much more restrictions attached to an Emotional Support Dog than a Service Dog.
Your dog may not be permitted to be out on campus at all without permission from the college. You must consider the implications of this to your dog is it is required to stay in a cage in your room all day while you attend class.
Alternative to On-Campus Living
There is the alternative to bringing your dog to college if you are prepared to live off campus. Many rental properties near colleges offer the option of allowing your pet to stay.
There are some pros and cons with this choice:
You get to bring your dog to college with you which is amazing. However, you will have to find somewhere that allows pets. Not all rental properties have this allowance.
This in turn may involve a higher rent cost, as you may have to rent a single apartment or studio.
Many colleges insist on freshmen living on campus. This is to ensure continuity with classes and reduces the dropout rate. Unless your dog is a service dog this will, unfortunately, rule out your bringing your dog.
It would be fantastic to have your dog greeting you on your return from class each day but would they be ok on their own for the whole day? Is this something that already happens in your family home?
Would you be missing out on certain aspects of campus life because you must care for your dog?
These are all questions that need to be fully considered before moving your dog to college.
Find Somewhere to Volunteer
If you have your heart set on a college that doesn’t allow pets there always is the option of volunteering. Every town has an animal shelter. They are always glad to have extra help. You could check with your campus volunteer office to see do they already have a link with a local shelter. If not, check online to see where the nearest one is.
Animals in shelters always need some extra love and attention. And like all dogs, they need to be walked every day.
If there is no shelter (which to be honest is unlikely) you could look out for dog walking adverts. It’s not the same as walking or being around your own dog but it’s a pretty good substitute.
Would it be better for your dog to be at home?
This may be a very difficult decision to make. But it may be the best decision. Bringing your dog to college is for your benefit. The thoughts of not seeing that tail wagging every day may be too much of a toll. But you can’t just think of yourself.
You have to consider your dog. If you bring him/her to college, they will be on their own a lot of the time. Surrounded by new people, in a new environment. Will you have the ability to run back to the dorm between classes to check in on them? Will you have the financial means to take care of them, and feed them?
What if they damage college property or a resident’s property or god forbid, bite someone? Your dog will miss the way things were in your family home. Usually, even when a dog belongs to a specific family member, they are in fact loved and cared for by the whole family.
Going to college is a huge challenge. Probably the biggest change and decision you have ever made. Your dog is still going to be there when you go home to visit. When you are talking to your parents or siblings, try and organize to Skype or Facetime, so you can have your dog included in the call.
When your parents come to visit you on campus, maybe they can bring your dog along for the trip, if it’s not too far.
If you are interested, I have a post on How often should I go home from college?
If all this seems like a step too much, you should think about applying to colleges where you can still live at home. Your pet is a big part of your life. You don’t want them to feel like you’re forgetting them. But going to college is an adventure that your pet would not want you to miss out on. If they can be there with you, well, that is fantastic. If not, try and find a solution that works for both of you.