The Pet Hall, where students are allowed to bring and live with their cats and dogs, is opening this year. The Hall is located on the first floor of South Residence Hall.
Trinity has long been a proponent of using animals as a cure to stress, but the dogs and cats that live in the Pet Hall are likely to have an even greater impact.
“The Pet Hall was introduced in an effort to enhance the living opportunities for upper-class students, to give them more options,” said Wanda Olson, assistant director for housing operations.
The animals allowed in the Pet Hall are house pets, not specially trained emotional support animals, which have always been allowed on campus. Still, Pet Hall organizers are confident that this will provide both comfort and education for students.
“We wanted to give them that adult feeling of being able to take care of animals and being autonomous in the upper-class area,” said Lisa Chapa, Housing Assignment coordinator. “This is more of preparing the students to move out and live on their own.”
The Pet Hall was not an administrator’s idea, but was rather the result of multiple students requesting to bring their dogs and cats with them to campus.
“Some students had approached Dean Tuttle about doing this, and so we decided to offer it as a pilot program this year,” Olson said. “I don’t think we would have thought of the [it] had students not requested it.”
The Pet Hall was established after the initial requests were received. Even with the quick turnaround, applicants still had to go through a thorough evaluation.
“We had a process that started last March and we interviewed the students that were requesting to bring the animals,” Olson said. “It has to be a family pet, since we wanted to know the temperament of the animal.”
The establishment of the Pet Hall carried with it a rigorous set of policies designed to mitigate any potential risk. Policies focused the general upkeep of the Pet Hall building and the experience of students living on and around the Pet Hall. The restrictions preventing pets from becoming nuisances are especially strict.
“Generally we give students on the Pet Hall a warning,” Chapa said, “but it depends on the situation. If you have a pet that bites somebody, then that’s a zero tolerance thing.”
Both students and staff who are involved in the Pet Hall are aware that those who are unfamiliar with the project may be reluctant to take it seriously. They are convinced, that once the Pet Hall becomes more established, the benefits will become obvious.
“I know there are some students who are very unexcited, apprehensive, about this program,” Chapa said, “but it’s like any other pilot program in a job or anything, just give it some time.”
Even with the uncertainty of public opinion on campus, students who were able to live on the Pet Hall are relieved to live with a pet while knowing that ResLife cares enough to implement such a program.
“The ResLife support for the process has been great,” said Celeste Martin, junior and a resident on the new Pet Hall. “I’ve lived with animals my whole life, and adjusting to life without pets felt lonely. Cats have always been a good silent support for me.”
The Pet Hall is only just beginning its pilot year, but those involved are already expecting increased interest throughout the year.
“I wish more people saw support pets as a viable option for them,” Martin said, “because I’ve seen it help so many people around me to be responsible.”