Res pets give paws

In April, Middle Bay don Chris Rice finally got a new roommate: an orange and white tabby cat named Ariel. But Ariel, wide-eyed and furry, is technically against residence policy. However, the dons of Radical, Middle, and Chapel Bays all currently have cats.

Middle Bay don Chris Rice has lived alone in King’s College residence since 2008. But in April, he finally got a new roommate: an orange and white tabby cat named Ariel.
“The Radical Bay don was looking after a cat for her friend, and convinced me to get one too,” says Rice.
But Ariel, wide-eyed and furry, is technically against residence policy. “Life in King’s residence really isn’t conducive for pets,” says the online King’s Residence Guidelines and Policies. Only small fish bowls are accepted.
However, the dons of Radical, Middle, and Chapel Bays all currently have cats. While Gerry Smith, bursar and head of facilities management, was unaware—his secretary declined an interview on his behalf—Dean Nick Hatt is aware of the pets. However, he’s unwilling to bend that policy for students.
“If the situation arose, I’d ask the student to find another place for the pet to live,” says Hatt.
According to Hatt, the dons “live in their rooms year-round and can provide a level of stability to animals that students can’t.”

So far, Hatt hasn’t received any complaints. “One student wrote on the student info sheet that they had allergies to cats, but said they still loved them, especially Ariel,” Rice said.
But Dr. Andrew Morrison, a veterinarian at Sunnyview Animal Care Centre in Bedford, says love may not be enough to justify the possible allergic side effects.
“For most people, runny eyes and noses are the signs of mild allergies. More severe allergies can involve a swelling of the respiratory passages making it difficult to breathe,” wrote Morrison in an email.
Morrison knows the pitfalls of keeping pets in residence through personal experience. He lived in Chapel Bay as well as North Pole Bay at King’s between 1991 and 1995. He recalls inappropriate incidents, including a fish that was once “swallowed whole” by a Chapel Bay resident.
“We’d hate to think it can happen, but drunk students can be unpredictable,” wrote Morrison.
Morrison also believes that the size of a dorm room can create an atmosphere that can cause pacing and anxiety. “A cat with a nervous disposition can become worse and more aggressive,” he said.
But students have kept pets in residence before: Hatt said that there have been two known cases in the past five years. Third-year student Erin DiCarlo’s worst-kept secret from 2008 is one of those cases.
In her first year, DiCarlo got a beagle named Sadie as a Christmas gift for her parents. In the week before Christmas break, she kept Sadie in her residence room.
“I had nowhere else to keep her, and I didn’t know anyone with a house,” said DiCarlo.
She went to great lengths to make sure Sadie didn’t cause problems. She assured her don, Angela Friesen, that it would be temporary. She also kept Sadie under wraps for fear of the consequences. “I would hide her in a blanket when I walked by first floor to go outside. I didn’t want to walk by Nick Hatt’s office, and I was afraid he’d see and I’d be kicked out,” she says.
But despite their best efforts, DiCarlo and her puppy nearly caused a campus-wide problem.
“She used to walk around Middle Bay on the carpets, and when the vet in Fredericton saw her, she warned me flea eggs could have fallen off where she was playing,” she says. “I thought, ‘holy shit, when we get back from break, everyone will get fleas.’”
Nothing came of the situation, but it affected her view of pets in residence: that they only belong if students are accountable.
“You run the risk of people buying pets just because they can, and then not taking care of them,” she said. “[But] as long as people adhere to residence codes about allergies and noise, why not? If the living situation is fair to the animal, what’s the problem?”

While Rice says that not all students are too immature to have a pet, he thinks the dons are in a better place to take care of one. “If you trust dons to take care of the well-being of students’ needs,” he says, “hopefully they can look after an animal.”
He stops speaking, and a loud thump echoes through the room. Ariel, “the best part of this school year”, has lunged at a microphone stand. Rice stops, and then exhales in relief as the stand regains balance.
“I don’t take care of Ariel at all,” Rice jokes. “He just destroys everything.”

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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