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Pet Policy To Pilot This Fall

By Karen E. Robinson


For the first time in recent memory, cats will be officially allowed in some dorms next term on a trial basis.

The policy’s main goal is to eliminate hidden cats while preventing them from being completely banished from undergraduate dorms, said former Dormitory Council President Jennifer A. Frank ’00. She hopes that this policy will help to promote responsible pet ownership among students.

A pilot program will exist this year in which only cats that lived in the dorm during the 1999-2000 academic year will be granted registration. Furthermore, this program will be restricted to “the dorms where undergraduates felt strongest about pets being part of their culture, said Karen A. Nilsson, associate director for operations. The dorms that will be permitted to house pets are Bexley, East Campus, Random Hall, and Senior House.

Nilsson and Frank have been the main authors and chief proponents of this new “cat policy.” The policy will be extended for another year to include new cats if all goes smoothly, and a final policy will be written if both pilot policies run smoothly, Nilsson said.

MIT has no intention to add other dorms or to include other animals to the policy, Nilsson said.

Owners must register pets

Under the pilot program, each cat owner agrees to accept responsibility for any damage the cat causes to MIT or other students’ property, to keep his cat only in cat-approved areas of the dorm, and to keep only one cat.

Cat owners must comply with city animal control and licensing laws and prevent flea infestations of their rooms and of the house. They must also insure that their cats have had all necessary vaccinations and are spayed or neutered at the appropriate age. Each cat will also be given a small red registration tag.

Each participating dorm will have a designated “PetComm,” who will keep on record the names, photographs, and veterinary history of all cats in a dorm.

Each of the four participating dorms will have a limited number of spaces for cats. There will be a maximum of five cats allowed in Bexley, twelve in East Campus, five in Random, and five in Senior House, said Matthew S. Cain ’02, president of Random Hall and vice president of DormCon.

Petcomm to oversee problems

In the case of any problems with the new policy, the Pet Chair and dorm Judicial Committee will be responsible for assessing damage and finding a solution. “We don’t want this burden to fall on house managers; they have enough to do, Frank said. “This is something the students want, so we should be taking care of it as much as possible.”

“We assume students are serious about having pets” after going through the registration process and seeing a veterinarian for the necessary pet care and proof thereof,” Nilsson said. “We hope they will follow this responsible set of rules,” and that there will therefore be few problems, she said.

Pet policy will be limited to cats

Nilsson and Frank were clear on the policy not extending to dogs, which can incur more liability, or smaller caged animals, which can generate more mess than cats.

As conference attendees are often housed in West Campus dorms, this policy will not be extended to the remaining dorms, Nilsson said.

“We will examine the pilot several times throughout the year, and in early spring,” Nilsson said. “The policy will stay as long as it is adhered to,” Nilsson said.

Policy to give students control

Dormcon president Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02 added that this pilot allows the RLSLP and other offices to give students some additional responsibility. Allowing students to keep this kind of responsibility is “one of Dormcon’s major goals,” he said.

Students and administrators have been working on establishing a pet policy since last winter, Evans said. In March, the final proposal was submitted to Nilsson and Andrew M. Eisenmann ’70, the former Director of Residential Life and Student Life Programs.

MIT’s policy was influenced heavily by the program at the California Institute of Technology, Frank said. “We looked for other schools with similar policies, and CalTech was the only one similar to MIT. The only other we found at all was [at] Reid College, a small liberal arts college in the Northwestern US.”