BIBLE HILL – Picking up her pesky little friends, Alicia Tripp smiles as she puts Gus on her shoulder.
She picks the brown rat up and turns him so he’s facing the same direction as she is, and tries to do the same with Piper, a white and grey rat, on her other shoulder. They don’t want to cooperate.
“I got Gus when I moved into Fraser House in my second semester last year,” said Tripp, a 19-year-old, second-year animal science student at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus. “I got Piper this past January – I figured Gus could use a companion when I was in class.”
But now, Tripp and the other residents on the campus only have a few more months with their furry little friends as Dalhousie University is changing the pets in residence policy at the former Nova Scotia Agricultural Campus.
Students received an email over the Christmas break from the university about the policy change.
“They said there will be no pets in residence in September of next year to ensure the consistency in the campuses, and that they’re taking the best practices for the policy,” said the Lunenburg native who has two cats, two dogs and a bird at home.
“The benefit of having a pet with you in residence is psychological – having something to care for, to talk to and to cuddle. It’s helps fill the void, so to speak, especially for those that had pets at home.”
The policy currently in place allows students to have small animals, such as rats, hedgehogs, mice, hamsters or fish. There are restrictions on cage sizes and any problems are dealt with on an individual basis. She’s not sure when it first came into play, but Tripp said she’s spoken with staff members who remember people having pets in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
As far as Tripp knows, there haven’t been any major issues with the 60-plus pets currently in residence. Those with pets undergo monthly inspections to ensure the standards that are set are being met.
Stephanie Rogers, external relations with the campus, confirmed the reason for the change.
“The students had been allowed small pets, but when we merged with Dalhousie University in the fall, we merged the policy to be consistent,” she said. “There was no program or reason why that policy was in place.”
When she first heard about the policy change, Tripp gathered together the rules currently used for residents and pets, and collected close to 100 signatures on a petition. She submitted it to her residence manager.
“I think the policy change is completely unnecessary. Maybe they didn’t understand the rules that we already had in place, but I heard about a week-and-a-half-ago that we still don’t get to keep our pets,” said Tripp.
For now, Tripp will stay in residence but plans to move off campus next year to keep Gus and Piper with her, which is something Kate Dufresne also plans on doing.
“The policy change is a big factor why I’m moving out of residence,” said Dufresne, a 20-year-old Chester native, also in animal science, who has three mice. “I’m not going to give up my pets, especially when they are very key to the lifestyle here at the AC.”
Kaitlin McDonnell, however, won’t be so lucky come the fall.
“I was very angered,” McDonnell said. “I can’t move out. Agriculture and animals go together – it feels wrong without them.”
The 19-year-old said she has no choice but to have her mother take care of her two rats, including a hairless named Dimples.
“She’s not too pleased about it, but she loves them to death. But if they get really sick, I won’t be able to be there to take care of them.”
All three women say the pets are major “de-stressers” in their university lives.
“It’s also a big learning experience, because I’d never had mice,” added Defresne. “But wanting to study veterinarian (medicine), it’s a good thing.”