Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Students weren’t the only ones who moved onto the University of New Mexico’s campus this week.
At least 12 cats, 11 dogs, a gecko and a snake named Basil are also calling UNM home.
The semester starts Monday, and UNM got a lot more pet-friendly over summer break. This school year, the university is letting students have a pet in some of the living spaces on campus as part of a yearlong pilot project.
As a university that allows four-legged friends, UNM is a rare breed. University officials didn’t know how many other higher education institutions allow pets, but a check of college-ranking websites shows that even some colleges designated as “pet friendly” don’t allow dogs in dorms.
“We believe that education also occurs outside of the classroom,” said Wayne Sullivan, the director of resident life and student housing. “We’re providing an opportunity for students to have an educational experience outside of the classroom.”
Sullivan said the university also thinks allowing pets may be a way to attract more students to live on campus.
Students will be allowed to live with a pet at two locations: Santa Clara Hall, which is a traditional-style dorm built in the 1960s that can board about 120 students, and one of the 12 apartment-style buildings that make up the Student Residence Center. The building has about 30 living spaces.
Sullivan said midway through the week that those dwellings only had about 13 spaces open, which indicates that some students want to live in a dorm that allows pets.
University officials said fewer than 25 pets are registered with the university, but they expect the number to increase. Students in pet-friendly rooms can add pets at any time.
“I’ve heard a lot of the residents moving in, the main reason that they are here is just to be around pets,” said Kye Glover, a senior business marketing major. “A lot of them aren’t bringing pets. They just want to be in an environment around them. A lot of them have said they want all the fun aspect of pets and not have to take care of them.”
Glover is the student hall coordinator this year. He’s living in Santa Clara with his 7-month-old pointer mix, Bentley.
Glover grew up in rural parts of southern Colorado – he was born in Cortez and graduated from high school in Del Norte – and dogs were always part of his family.
“I’ve had a dog my whole life. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t have a dog growing up,” he said. “It’s great to have another being around.”
University policy says owners must pay for repairs or cleaning that are required due to their pets’ indiscretions. Pet owners also have to follow city, county and state ordinances on campus, and must be able to show their animals are licensed and vaccinated. The weight limit for dogs is 40 pounds.
The new pet policy doesn’t affect rules for service or emotional support animals.
Glover said he saw small dogs and others closer to the weight limit move into the dorm last week. He also got an email about a rabbit that could be joining the hall’s ranks.
“It is either going to be great and everybody is going to love it or it is just going to be a one-year thing,” he said.
This summer, UNM built a dog park of sorts near Santa Clara. It’s a small, shaded and fenced-in patch of grass where dogs can be off leash. Sullivan said there are also plans to convert a room in Santa Clara into a play room.
One afternoon last week, Bentley took advantage of the shaded play area to wrestle with Gemini, a mix between a labradoodle and a golden doodle. Both canines are living in Santa Clara Hall.
Gemini belongs to Hunter Clabo, a sophomore secondary education major.
Clabo is from California, so he is away from friends, family and his girlfriend while studying in Albuquerque. He’ll be living with Gemini, the offspring of his girlfriend’s dog, to help him get over feeling homesick.
“I’m doing a long distance relationship with my girlfriend and at times it was hard … just missing that companionship,” Clabo said. “As soon as I heard Santa Clara was going to be pet-friendly … I wanted to live with him on campus.”