Illegal and Legal Pets on Campus

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For many of you reading this—more specifically 3 out of 5 of you– having a pet at home seems like second nature. And for those of you who dorm on campus, living without a non-human companion has probably been a strange transition. NJIT’s dorm halls restrict pets to smaller species of fish, which have temporarily filled the gap in many resident’s hearts, although cats, snakes, hamsters, and bunnies have been heard of as making their way through reshall doors.

Most residents probably have a pets-on-campus story to tell. One who wishes to remain anonymous shared, “I’ve heard of some cats, hamsters, a squirrel, even a homeless person in Honors. I wish I was kidding.”

Whitney, an RA in Laurel Hall, recounted an unusual room inspection experience. “I walked in… and the resident had a cute little tank with a statue frog. I moved and realized it moved with me. It was alive! It was a real frog.”
Commuters have animal stories too. The mice on campus are a bonding point for many. After surveying some Game Room frequenters, most responses were displeased with the prevalence of mice throughout the area. “I see a mouse here at least once a week. I usually run away,” says a student employee in the Game Room. “I can’t talk about this,” says another.
The pet policy on campus may seem cruel to residents who have always been in the company of other animals. However, this rule has not been a recent implementation or an attack on animal lovers. It has existed as a policy since day one without question. One student asserts, “As much as I do love pets of all kinds, I think it’s a rule for a reason. A good one at that. Pets can be gross and dirty and you never know who is allergic to what. Even if no one is allergic, what about the people who would have your room next?”

This student makes a great point, one that may require another article: being considerate of future residents. A frequent first thought of many residents moving onto campus is, “I can’t believe these adults are trusting a bunch of kids with their buildings to live in and maintain.” With this thought in mind, it is frightening to imagine a building that allowed animals. Things would get messy. Quickly.

With that said, owning a pet is a great responsibility (as every child who has ever wanted a puppy has been told by their parents). Taking the time to feed and care for another animal requires and produces a lifestyle of dependability and accountability. This practice may find its way into other areas of life, like school work, health, and relationships. Although having larger, free range animals may not be conducive to the college dorm life, having a fish might be.
“Fish are cool because they don’t make messes. I would love to have a kitten, but I also wouldn’t love everyone else’ pets getting loose and potentially [making a mess] everywhere,” says Maliha Mathew, a second-year Biology major and resident of the unaffiliated house in the Greek Village.

Fish are sold in a variety of stores for low prices, but one could also wait around for the next summer carnival on campus. Last year, during that memorable event, there was a tent set up on the green giving out fish in small colored tanks. There were choices of orange, yellow, green, or red tanks with either rainbow or solid colored pebbles. One could even add a small plastic coral to make the 99-cent fish feel more at home.

Of course, the carnival fish did not last very long; The average life span of a carnival fish is about 2 weeks. But during that time, they can provide a sense of responsibility and excitement. Remembering to feed it, maybe talking to it a little and having friends come over and see it for themselves offers a sense of gratification. And when these fish died, many held funerals in their bathroom, like Patricia Bobila, a former Honors Hall resident, who had a fantastic turnout of at least 7 guests.

Animals of all kinds have contributed to our experience on campus. Whether they are smuggled pets, NJIT approved fish, pesky rodents or merely the subject of a rumor. So, to the critters of NJIT, thank you for being part of the campus experience.

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Shanee Halevi

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