The not-so-secret life of dorm pets


Victoria BresnahanGeneral Assignment Reporter

In Jenn Pohl’s Brownell Residence Hall dormitory, there is a large 10 to 20-gallon tank filled with nine fish. Pohl, sophomore and special education major, said these fish give her a sense of companionship and she enjoys having something to care for.

“We as a collective take care of them,” said Pohl, sophomore and special education major, “but a lot of the responsibilities fall on me since I am the one who takes them home over break.”

One of Pohl’s roommates, Halley Shambra, sophomore and special education major, said their tank consists of mollies, rainbow tetras and a white tetra. They started acquiring the fish at the beginning of the fall semester and only one has died, Shambra said.

“We had a bunch of betta fish,” said Shambra, “but I think they all died [too].”

Shambra said while it was the collective decision of the roommates to take care of the fish, it was primarily Pohl’s idea. The tank’s white noise helps Shambra focus on her homework as well, she said.

“We take turns feeding it,” said Shambra, “but cleaning it is Jenn’s responsibility.”

Originally, Pohl said she asked the Brownell director and made sure she could keep the fish in her dorm.

“I thought I needed to sign papers and do all that type of stuff,” said Pohl. “I was told you have to have roommates sign, or like a roommate agreement.”

Pohl said at other state schools, such as Western Connecticut State University, students can keep in their dorm any pet that can fit in a tank.

“I would love it if Southern had a more flexible pet policy,” said Pohl. “Hamsters and stuff are really easy to take care of!”

However, Pohl said animals such as dogs or cats would be difficult to keep in a dormitory since they need to be let out and can be loud at times.

According to Southern’s “Residence Life Student Guide to On-Campus Living”, no other pets besides fish are allowed in dorms such as Brownell. However, residence life does allow students in dormitories such as North campus apartments to have aquatic pets—such as fish, frogs, or turtles—in 10-gallon tanks.

Additionally, the document stated students can have service animals stay in their dorms if they provide proper notice through the Disability Resource Center.

“I know that you can have a dog or a cat or something like that on campus, if you have it registered as an emotional companion animal,” said Pohl. “I was trying to do that at one point, but I just have not been able to get through the whole process because it takes a little while—especially through the school.”

Roommates Emily Lisitano, sophomore and social work major, and Debbi Carr, sophomore and nursing major, said they have two betta fish named “N’ Chips” and “Filet”. Lisitano said she got the fish through a residence hall event at West campus about 2 weeks ago.

“[It is] 100 percent [stress relieving to have an animal],” said Lisitano. “I wish we could have dogs. I want to get a therapy dog. But yeah, I like it.”

Photo Courtesy: Jenn Pohl

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