Lobos can now add a leash to the list of necessary things for attending the University of New Mexico. 

UNM Resident Life and Student Housing will be launching a pilot program starting Fall 2019 and concluding at the end of the spring semester 2020. According to Wayne Sullivan, director of Resident Life and Student Housing, this will be an opt-in program to house a pet in their dorm, however there will be only 150 of the 2,000 resident slots on campus.

Halls participating in this trial program include Santa Clara Hall — a traditional dorm — and one of the Resident Center apartment buildings. Dogs, cats, small mammals, small reptiles and amphibians will be allowed to live in the dorms. 

Other schools around the country do allow pets in the dorms, however the practice is not prevalent. The idea was suggested by multiple students in exit slips that are collected from residents at the end of every year, Sullivan said. The student populations’ desire for the program, combined with the research showing the benefits of owning pets, were the two primary reasons for starting the pilot program, he added.

“Usually there is greater well being, reduced stressed and we also look at it from the point of view of an educational experience outside of the classroom. In addition to learning experience inside the classroom (student life) looks for experience outside the classroom and pet ownership can be one of those,” Sullivan said.

UNM currently allows service animals and emotional support animals in student housing and Sullivan said that these students will not be required to live in the pet dorms. He said the University has plenty of room and no one will be turned away from housing, and students who have pet allergies won’t be in the same halls.

“Next February when students take the satisfaction survey there will be a segment about the pet dorms to assess students’ satisfaction,” Sullivan said. 

If the program is successful it will be continued and possibly expanded, but it all depends on student feedback. 

UNM student and Residential Adviser Bianca Maier has an emotional support animal of her own, named Pumpkin. According to Maier this program has a lot of potential benefits for students, and she can say that from personal experience.

Maier previously worked as an RA in Coronado Hall and this year she works in Hokona Hall. She said having an emotional support animal helps her with her anxiety. Maier did point out, however, that not all aspects of this program are a good idea. 

“One harmful aspect would be the responsibility residents would need to take on owning a pet is time consuming and a large financial investment. There is no real way to measure how responsible a pet owner will be so there is concern for neglect,” Maier said. 

She said if students are responsible enough to take care of a pet then there are a lot of benefits. Research has shown that pets reduce stress and prevent loneliness, she said, and these are problems that students experience in particular.  

There will be an additional fee of $75 to $150 per semester for students who decide to opt-in to the pilot program, the price being dependant on the type of animal.

Megan Holmen is the assistant news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at assistant-news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.