Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ask A Guinea Pig: Should I Sneak Guinea Pigs into College?

Q: Matilda, Sunny, and Stella asked on behalf on their human, Emily: "Our mom will be heading off to college next Autumn and we're going to miss her very much. We'd love to come with mom, but her school probably won't let us. Is it worth it to sneak in with her? Do you guys have any thoughts on this? We're not sure we'll get the best care when she's away."

A: There are some places where pets, even ones as adorable as us, just aren't allowed. There are many apartments where pets are not allowed, for example, and if you get caught, the landlord is "entitled to act upon the consequences laid out in your lease – so if your lease states that your landlord can evict you, keep the entire security deposit, charge you for property damages, and hold you responsible for covering rent for the remainder of the lease, guess what? You have to pay up AND move out."

The situation in dorms is pretty similar to regular apartments, but even worse in many ways. According to an article in the GW Hatchet, students with pets in dorms have to worry about surprise visits from Facility Services, and usually have one day to give the animal to a friend or family member if they get caught. Articles from NYU Local and The Harvard Crimson point out some other considerations:
  • College students tend not to have a lot of money. Can you afford a guinea pig on a student budget?
  • Some dorms have security guards at the building door, and/or have security officers patrolling the hallways. Are you prepared to sneak in your guinea pigs (as well as their cage and other supplies)?
  • In addition to room checks, you'll also have to worry about loose-lipped neighbors and visitors snitching on you. And, unless you have your own room, you'll probably have a dorm roommate. Are you being assigned someone randomly? If so, how do you know this person will be okay with living with guinea pigs? 
  • Even if your roommate is okay with you having guinea pigs in your dorm room, what if they turn out to be allergic?
  • At NYU, pet policy violations have no assigned penalty, "Which means you’re subject to any sanctions deemed reasonable, ranging from a written referral to dismissal from housing." (Although they also say that the most likely punishment is you'll be forced to get rid of your pet, rather than being kicked out of dorms altogether. It is possible they could go for the harsher option, however.) Harvard appears to be similar.
  • Colleges have long breaks built into their schedules, in which your guinea pig will still need to be cared for. Will you stick around during the breaks? Will you entrust your guinea pig into the care of someone else during the breaks (assuming you can even find someone)? Will you transport your guinea pigs back and forth every single break?
Another factor to consider is whether your guinea pig is considered an emotional support animal (ESA). If a mental health professional diagnoses you with a major impairment that a pet would be helpful for, then the pet can be considered an ESA, and the human can bring the ESA into some places where the pet might not normally be allowed, such as airplanes and dorm rooms. Having your guinea pig be designated an ESA could remove the risk of getting caught, although you would still have to deal with the various pet care issues.

We can't tell you exactly what to do since we don't know the specifics of your situation, but we can say that you should fully consider your options to determine which one is best for the guinea pigs. Ask yourself if the care your piggies would receive back at home would be worse than being in a dorm environment where you'd have to worry about all the issues we've mentioned. If neither option looks good, perhaps you can look into a third option, like educating your parents (or whoever would be looking after the guinea pigs) on how to care for us properly, or finding a pet-friendly apartment off-campus. In the end, you should ask yourself, "What's best for the guinea pigs?"

A good, spacious cage is important, but it's also important that we don't get evicted from it!
Got questions for us? Leave a comment, and we may answer you in our next Ask A Guinea Pig!

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has worked in a college/university residence please don't bring them in if the residence has a policy against pets.

    I have had to write people up and ensure that their animals are removed from the property and normally it has to be done in a pretty strict deadline - if you are going far from home this may not be enough time for someone to come and pick them up. It's not fun for the person doing the paperwork, it's not fun for the pet owner and it's definitely not fun for the pet!

    Another thing to consider is the health of everyone around you. A lot of people are incredibly allergic to guinea pigs and hay, and a lot of dorm rooms share ventilation with each other. While they may not come into direct contact with your piggy they still may be put at risk.

    I hope you figure out a great situation for your fur-kids and good luck in school!