Best Pet-Friendly Universities in the USA

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Updated on 11 January 2021

There are a number of universities in the USA that provide for pet-friendly accommodation or pet-friendly communities on campus.

Note: Before we delve any deeper into the best pet-friendly universities, it’s important to highlight that COVID-19 has forced some institutions to temporarily pause or reevaluate their pet-friendly stance.

However, some of the universities mentioned in this article have managed to maintain pet-friendly halls on a watered down scale to ensure students can still enjoy the wellbeing benefits of having their pets at college.

Clarion students play with a dog (Photo: Clarion University)

Clarion students play with a dog (Photo: Clarion University)

It’s important to note that these pet-friendly universities allow dogs and cats in select areas of campus or specific residential halls even if they’re not a service animal or emotional support animal.

We spoke to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of savingforcollege.com, to understand the growing shift towards more pet-friendly universities in the USA:

More colleges are allowing students to have pets on their campus, in part because they have to. Federal law requires colleges to allow emotional support animals in campus housing and service animals on campus and in campus housing. This forces colleges to deal with the issues that arise from animals on campus, such as conflicts with students who are allergic. Some colleges responded by setting up pet-free floors in the dorms or adding HEPA filtration to HVAC systems.

Kantrowitz explained that universities have been forced to adopt policies concerning animals to ensure that faculty staff, students and visitors are comfortable on campus.

This also prompted colleges to adopt policies concerning animals. All animals, even emotional support and service animals, must be under the handler’s control at all times. They cannot be aggressive to people. Many colleges will allow small caged animals and fish in fish tanks, but allow cats and dogs only as emotional support animals or service animals.

Kantrowitz writes that up to 40 public and private colleges allow pets in the USA. When quizzed about their pet policies, we heard back from 13 universities.

So here are 13 of the most pet-friendly universities in the USA at the time of writing.

Canton State University Of New York

Charliann and her cat Lady at SUNY Canton

Charliann and her cat Lady at SUNY Canton

SUNY Canton is a pioneer in pet-friendly housing, and launched their popular “Pet Wing” in 1997. Students are able to bring a variety of pets with them to live on campus, including cats, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and fish.

SUNY Canton Director of Residence Life John M. Kennedy told hellobark.com:

We are proud of our standing as a pet-friendly campus. Our mission has always been to enhance the community-like atmosphere that we are known for, and the Pet Wing plays an important role in achieving that.

The unique housing option is a favorite choice among students who are pursuing one of the three veterinary-related degrees the college offers.

“Everyone needs a little extra support sometimes, and having my cat on campus with me has made an immeasurable positive impact on not only my grades, but my mental health as well,” said Charliann R. Friedman, a Pet Wing Resident Assistant and Veterinary Science Technology student from Glenville, N.Y., who lives with her cat, Lady.

On the hardest of days, I am always greeted with cuddles and a game of hide-and-seek. You truly can’t put a price tag on the love between you and your pet. If you’re a student, and this sounds like something for you, I highly recommend attending SUNY Canton.

The Pet Wing can accommodate more than 100 students who want to live with their companions, and the residence hall staff often organizes activities for students and their pets.

“Living with my pet has greatly increased my motivation and time management skills,” said Aurora N. Santiago, a Veterinary Science Technology student from Westchester, N.Y., who lives with her cat companion, Peaches.

While I may not want to get out of bed in the morning to go to class, I know I absolutely have to feed my cat and clean her litter. It has definitely helped the transition to college as well, because I brought a big part of home with me. She reduces my stress and anxiety, and by playing or petting her at the end of the day, I am given a peaceful and quiet outlet for my emotions.

SUNY Canton’s animal-friendly campus culture extends beyond the Pet Wing. Students raise funds to outfit police dogs with lifesaving Kevlar vests and donate supplies and food for local animal shelters. The college also sponsors pet-therapy sessions for students to relax and de-stress during finals week.

To find out more about Canton’s pet policy, click here.

Clarion University

Clarion students play with a dog (Photo: Clarion University)

Clarion students play with a dog (Photo: Clarion University)

Clarion University established a pet-friendly living learning community in 2019 so students didn’t have to leave their cats and dogs at home when heading off to college.

The university implemented a community where upperclassmen can bring cats, dogs (who weigh less than 40 pounds when fully grown), birds, fish, chinchillas, small reptiles and more.

Clarion provided students with common interests the opportunity to live in designated housing or sections of buildings with their pets.

Jenn Dutkiewicz, Director Of Residence Life Services, said:

We hope offering this LLC will provide the opportunity for our residents to bring their pets to school and assist with their college transitions. Many of our students have pets they miss dearly when they are in school, and this will allow them to continue their care.

The LLC is available to sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Interested students are required to complete the necessary paperwork, pay a $200 fee per academic year as well as make sure their pet’s vaccines and veterinary record are up to date.

For more information about Clarion’s pet-friendly housing, click here.

Eckerd College

Student doing homework while her dog relaxes (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Student doing homework while her dog relaxes (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Eckerd College’s pet life policy began in 1973 after students requested the company of their furry friends on campus. Eckerd doesn’t welcome only furry friends as pets, though. It is also home to between 200 and 300 domesticated birds, fish, snakes, turtles, lizards and other animals each year.

All a student has to do to bring along a pal that meets the criteria is register it with the Pet Life Staff (for a small fee for a large pet) and show proof of its current vaccinations to make sure it is suitable for dorm living and will be well taken care of. Eckerd students can bring large pets—dogs, cats, rabbits, chinchillas and ferrets—after their first semester at Eckerd. Assorted small pets are allowed as soon as students move onto campus for their first semester.

Pets have their own amenities at Eckerd College, too, such as 16 pet-friendly student residence halls, a dog park and pet cleanup stations all around campus. Pets are a part of the family at Eckerd—bringing calm, comfort and companionship to their owners and friends—so many students bring them to the annual Pet Blessing on October 4, St. Francis of Assisi Day.

Of course, you can’t forget about one of the most important college events: graduation—for the critters! Whether fuzzy, scaly, feathery or something else, since 2013 all pets have been invited to their very own Pet Graduation ceremony at the end of the academic year, in May, to receive a “degree,” just like their owners.

The popularity of Eckerd’s pet-friendly lifestyle is always growing, and Eckerd embraces hundreds of new and returning pets each year.

In 2020, some 179 dogs and cats, 50 snakes, 42 lizards, 15 fish, 10 hedgehogs and plenty of your other favorite small pets enjoyed Eckerd’s waterfront campus on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Maybe that’s why Eckerd College is known as the most pet-friendly college in the USA.

To learn more about Eckerd College’s pet-friendly reputation, click here.

University Of Florida

At the University of Florida and in the Gainesville community, we embrace pet owners, providing ample opportunities for education and engagement.

Pet ownership can provide wonderful benefits to students including companionship, promotion of responsibility through setting a routine, and making their space feel like home. However, pet ownership is not something to take lightly, and the university through the office of Off Campus Life (OCL) provides several resources and services to help guide students with pets or students thinking about getting a pet.

OCL has helpful information in their annual publication The Gator Guide to Off Campus Life. On page 34 in the Gator Guide, you will find the Pets section which includes a quiz to determine pet ownership readiness, tips for pet owners, pet registration/licensing information, and local dog park resources. Also in the Gator Guide under the Rental Apartment section, you will find on page 4 average costs that include average pet deposit and average monthly pet fees.

Off Campus Life’s online Housing Locator which allows students to search for off-campus housing has a filter that allows students to find pet friendly rental properties in Gainesville.

Additionally, Off Campus Life holds an event called Puppy Palooza that educates students on the responsibilities of pet ownership and how to adopt locally or volunteer locally if students are not ready for a pet of their own.

In our on-campus residence halls that primarily house first-year undergraduate students, we do have a Pet Policy Agreement to ensure approval by roommates of pets. Pending that agreement, the following pets are permitted within the residence halls: fish, hamsters, gerbils, lizards (no iguanas) that are maximum length of 6 inches using the Snout to Vent Method, salamanders (certified non-poisonous), frogs (certified nonpoisonous), geckos, and chinchillas.

No other type of animal (regardless of similarity to those listed above) is permitted as a pet. In accordance with state and federal law, service animals and UF approved assistance animals will be permitted in the residence halls. All residents needing a service or assistance animal should contact housing staff for more information.

Should a student decide to get a pet, our lush campus community has numerous walking/biking trails and green spaces for students to bring their furry friends. The weather is Gainesville is sunny year-round allowing most local restaurants to provide pet-friendly outdoor seating. Additionally, with a world-class veterinarian school on campus, our students can be confident they can find amazing care for their animals should they need it.

You can read more about University Of Florida’s student life here.

Johnson & Wales University

Student works on her laptop while Labrador relaxes on knee (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Student works on her laptop while Labrador relaxes on knee (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Johnson & Wales University first established their pet-friendly campus in 2013, securing them status as one of the USA’s most pet-friendly universities. When asked about their pet-friendly approach, Miriam Weinstein, Communications & Media Relations Director told hellobark.com:

“Johnson & Wales University is continually seeking ways to provide a comfortable and pleasant residential experience for our students who live on-campus. We established our pet-friendly campus in 2013, in part, because we heard from our students through focus groups and surveys that this was something they desired.

We recognize that one of the benefits of permitting pets on campus is that it gives students a sense of home and comfort while they reside on campus. Each of our students who live with a pet has a specific reason for doing so and it ultimately strengthens their on-campus experience. For some, it’s like having a piece of home here with them. For others, it’s a catalyst for meeting new people and making friends. Or, quite simply, it maintains the bond between pet and person while away.

“Inherent with having a pet while attending college comes the need to add structure to everyday and requires an understanding of caring for another. This builds character, compassion, and personal connection that can benefit an individual for a lifetime.

“In addition to the positive feedback our students have shared for our pet-friendly campus, we’ve learned that some of the pets have expanded their human connections through their college experience, too.”

You can find more about JWU’s pet-friendly community here.

Kansas State University

Student sips a coffee with his dog in a pet carrier (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Student sips a coffee with his dog in a pet carrier (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The pet policy for the residence halls at Kansas State University has allowed for a larger variety of animals than most colleges and universities for a long time. The policy was developed years ago and expertise from K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine was used to help determine animals that were appropriate for the confines of a residence hall room.

Unique pets such as degus, sugar gliders, and small-tailed opossums are allowed as are the more common hamsters, gerbils, rats, and lizards. The policy even allows for non-venomous snakes less than 48 inches in length.

Students must go through a simple approval process with residence hall staff which includes a requirement that all roommates approve of the animal being in the room. Other guidelines regarding pets in common area spaces, sizes and types of habitats, and a maximum number of habitats are also listed in the policy.

Of course, assistance animals are also permitted if approved as an accommodation from the university’s Student Access Center. K-State has seen an increase in recent years of students who receive approval for emotional support animals such as dogs or cats as part of therapy they may be participating in.

Allowing pets in the residence halls helps students feel more at home. In many cases, they may be bringing pets they have owned for a number of years. Students having the additional responsibility of caring for the animal often helps give students structure as they adjust to life on their own. Pets often help students connect with others just by having another reason for friends to stop by. In some cases, students find others with similar interests just based on the pets they have in their room.

Overall, students with pets seem to be happier and more satisfied with their residence hall experience when they have an animal to come home to.

Read more about KSU’s pet policy here.

Lees-McRae College

Golden Retriever poses in front of a college building (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Golden Retriever poses in front of a college building (Photo: Adobe Stock)

College is a time of transition and change, and that change can translate to increased levels of anxiety and stress. At Lees-McRae College, developing a pet-friendly campus is one way the school can provide a measure of stability for their students.

Many students leaving home to attend college are also leaving behind family pets. For some students, the shock of living without a pet for the first time in their lives can make the stress of leaving home and beginning a rigorous education worse. Allowing students to bring a family pet or emotional support animals can lessen feelings of loneliness, fear, and nervousness.

Specific residence halls on campus are designated as pet friendly. Students who wish to bring a cat, dog, or fish to campus may apply for a spot in one of these halls.

The policy limits students to one pet each, and the student is responsible for their pet’s behavior. Students who bring a pet to school agree to keep their pet from causing harm to their fellow students or to the campus. All campus pets must be registered, and all pets that are not registered as emotional support or guide animals are subject to a pet fee.

Students who have brought pets to campus say that having a pet has helped with homesickness and handling the changes in their lives. Taking care of another living thing teaches students about time management, budgeting, and personal responsibility. Students who have a pet find it easier to make friends with other pet owners and say that just spending time with an animal helps reduce anxiety.

Lees-McRae wants to create an environment where students are comfortable and safe, and for many, that includes close proximity to a beloved pet.

Learn more about Lees-McRae’s pet-friendly campus here.

Lyon College

Student revises her course work with help from her cat (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Student revises her course work with help from her cat (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Lyon College announced the initiative to become a pet-friendly campus in January 2018. This decision was made after senior leadership reviewed empirical literature on the effects of pets and college students.

Specifically, the literature suggested that students in pet-friendly residence halls cope better with stress and are more productive. Leadership also listened to Lyon students, who expressed that having pets on campus would be positive for them.

Since becoming pet-friendly, the Lyon College has received positive feedback from students, faculty, staff, and prospective students. Even if someone on campus doesn’t have a pet of their own, they still benefit from enjoying other campus members’ pets. It’s always a delight to see a cat sitting in someone’s window or to play with your friend’s dog while he or she is in class.

In January 2019, Lyon College opened a dog park on campus, and the park offered an additional benefit: students had another way to connect and socialize on campus while their dogs played together.

Another benefit of being a pet-friendly campus is the interest we receive from prospective students. Many students are initially drawn to Lyon by the pet-friendly campus and discover Lyon is the perfect fit for them. Being pet-friendly is another aspect that makes Lyon unique to the region. Not many other colleges around Lyon are pet-friendly. In fact, Lyon is the only pet-friendly college in Arkansas.

You can learn more about Lyon’s pet-friendly campus by clicking here.

Moravian College

Young girl with pet cat watching remote education webinar class (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Young girl with pet cat watching remote education webinar class (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Moravian College allow faculty and staff to bring dogs on campus provided their dogs meet certain conditions and they’ve completed the relevant documentation.

They write on their website that a reasonable dog policy, focused on owner responsibility, will improve the quality of campus life. Having said that, Moravian want to provide a safe, non-threatening and healthy environment for faculty, staff and students.

They underline that with the exception of service animals for individuals with disabilities, having dogs in the workplace is a privilege and not a right.

With that privilege, there is the responsibility to have a policy that is both balanced and sensible as it pertains to all faculty, staff, students and visitors.

Moravian College allows faculty and staff to bring dogs on campus provided they’ve been part of the family for at least a year and they’re at least 18 months old.

Every dog owner is encouraged to consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of the campus environment for his/her dog. Regardless of the circumstance, the owner is ultimately responsible for the actions of his/her dog.

Find out more about Moravian College’s pet-friendly policy here.

Pfeiffer University

Graduates pose with a special friend at ceremony (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Graduates pose with a special friend at ceremony (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Pfeiffer University began allowing pets on campus in 2017.

Pfeiffer University believes pets can provide both companionship and a sense of community for students living on campus, and as such allows for pets to be kept and maintained in a specific residential area of campus while the student is enrolled full-time.

Vice President of Student Development and Dean of Students, Ron Laffite, said:

Allowing students to have a pet with them on campus has been very successful for Pfeiffer. Of course, there are extra responsibilities that come with having a pet on campus for our students—those who do, have done really well. Our four-legged friends become part of the Pfeiffer Pfamily just as much as anyone else. Now more than ever, do we see the benefits of having that companionship.

Read more about how pets fit into student life at Pfeiffer by clicking here.

South Dakota State University

Students walk a Golden Retriever at South Dakota State University (Photo: South Dakota State University)

Students walk a Golden Retriever at South Dakota State University (Photo: South Dakota State University)

South Dakota State University began allowing pets in select residence halls in 2013. Although the coronavirus pandemic prompted SDSU to allow just Emotional Support Animals in pet-friendly halls at the moment, the SDSU press office told hellobark.com that talks are already underway to return to their previous position.

“South Dakota State University recognizes the importance pets play in the lives of our students and took a step in supporting students to allow them to live in select residence halls. SDSU understands the impact on the wholeness of our student’s lives and how the interaction with a loved pet can enhance their on-campus and university experience.

“As a result, SDSU has allowed students to have pets in select residence halls since the fall 2013 semester.

One of the many changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has been to only allow emotional support animals. However, discussions have been underway to return to the previous guidance.

“Currently, 34 emotional supports animals are in SDSU residence halls. The fall 2016 semester saw 31 emotional support/service animals and 11 pets. Fall 2017 saw 11 pets and 25 emotional support/service animals with students in residence halls.

“A unique part of SDSU’s animal-friendly approach is its professional, live-in staff members are allowed to have pets. In fact, only one of the 10 residential hall directors does not have a pet. SDSU also has placed dispensers for potty bags as students are supposed to pick up after their pet and properly dispose.”

For more information about South Dakota State University’s pet policy, click here.

Stephens College

Dog owner hugs her Golden Retriever puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dog owner hugs her Golden Retriever puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Stephens College have been welcoming cats, dogs, birds and other pet friends to campus for more than 10 years.

Their website explains that pets are treated like royalty at Stephens College.

Dr. Laura Nunnelly, Vice President for Student Development, said:

“Students get to bring a bit of home with them to school.

Pets are family members and having their pet with them on campus can make the transition to college smoother.

“Pets can create a stronger community — a way to bond and connect with each other. As we all know, pets are therapeutic — during moments of high stress, a student’s pet can be that wellness moment that they need.

“We also have a pet foster program that allows students who do not have a pet to help a local shelter get their dogs or cat adopted.”

You can find more information about Stephens College’s pet-friendly policy here.

Washington & Jefferson College

Dalmatian licks owner (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dalmatian licks owner (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Washington & Jefferson College launched their first Pet House in the 2006-07 academic year. Prior to the pandemic, W&J opened a second pet hall. There are around 40 to 45 students who live in pet houses each year.

Some of the pets that W&J permit include cats, dogs (weighing 40 lbs. or less), small birds, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, turtles and fish. Other types of animals may be approved on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Office of Residence Life. Cats and dogs must be one year old and owned by the student/family for at least 6 months prior to living on campus.

Outside of the pet house, students are only permitted to have fish in their rooms.

If a student has an approved service animal or emotional support animal, Residence Life can provide accommodations beyond the Pet House on a case-by-case basis.

Justin Swank, Director of Residence Life, told hellobark.com:

Over the last decade +, we have found that pets have enriched the W&J community and provide a lot of benefits for the students who care for them. In addition, the communities in the pet halls are some of the strongest on campus as students care about their pet’s welfare in the communities as much as their own.

On potential issues between pets, Swank added:

One question we often get is ‘what kind of issues we have had in the pet halls?’ Truly, we have little to no issues. In fact, we have found that pet ownership often supports the spirit of the Liberal Arts education and teaches students to responsibility and time management in ways they cannot find in the classroom.

It’s important to note that W&J did allow pets on campus for Fall 2020 but they operated one pet hall rather than two. All residential W&J students lived in single rooms this semester, without roommates, due to Coronavirus safety guidelines – including in the Pet House, so they had many fewer pets on campus this semester than they usually do.

Washington & Jefferson College provide more information on pet-friendly communities here.

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