While some students engage in illegal activities like underage drinking and drug use, others break the rules in order to cuddle up with a furry friend.
Students living in off-campus housing say they’ve hid their pets from landlords with no-pet policies. Though these students say the benefits of owning a pet are greater than the punishment of being caught, landlords, animal experts and student pet owners say balancing a college lifestyle with raising a pet can often be difficult.
“I just wish that more landlords would be open to having dogs,” said one LSA-sophomore dog owner who asked to remain anonymous because the owner is illegally keeping a yellow lab named Trapper in an apartment.
The owner said hiding the dog is “worth the risk” of repercussions.
According to a sample lease posted on the website of Prime Student Housing, tenants found with unauthorized pets will be considered “in default of the lease.” In addition, tenants found with pets will be charged $50 the first time the landlord spots the pet and any subsequent sightings. Tenants are also held responsible for any costs associated with cleaning the house due to the pet.
A sample lease posted on the website of Arch Realty states that tenants aren’t allowed to have pets unless they reach an agreement in writing with the landlord. In addition, the first time the landlord spots an unauthorized pet the tenant is charged $150 and $275 for any subsequent sighting. If the tenant fails to get rid of the pet and pay the fines in a timely fashion, they’ll be considered “in violation of the lease” and the landlord could initiate eviction procedures, according to the lease.
“Sometimes I’m nervous the landlord will come and check on something, but our dog doesn’t really bark, so it’s like he’s not there,” Trapper’s owner said. “Whenever our landlord comes over, the night before, we clean the house, vacuum it, make it look like (he) never existed … Then we drop (him) off at my friend’s house for a few hours.”
The pet-owner said the landlord of the house she plans to live in next year has an even stricter no-pet policy. She said she plans to continue hiding Trapper in her new house, though she’s considered other possibilities like giving him to her brother who attends Michigan State University.
Whatever happens, the owner said she wouldn’t abandon Trapper.
“I would never do that,” she said.
Bob Rubin, owner of Arbor Properties, said his company doesn’t often allow tenants to have pets.
“In general, people get pets because they’re cute,” Rubin said.
While pets may be adorable and fun to play with, Rubin said, “they’re a responsibility, and (they have) an impact on other people in the building as well as the building itself.”
Amy Khan, president of CMB Property Management, said a housing unit’s location, layout and yard size determines if pets will be allowed. If a student wants to have a pet, they have to sign a pet addendum.
Khan added that the company has not historically had problems with students abandoning their pets.
“In my 17 years of working here, we had turtles abandoned once,” Khan said. “The students left a note that said, ‘We couldn’t take them. Please find them a home.’ In our pet-friendly buildings, we have not had neglectful students when it comes to dogs or cats.”
Deb Kern, the marketing director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, said the Humane Society has pet-adoption restrictions for students. If students want to adopt an animal, they must be 21 years or older and a Humane Society representative will contact the landlord to confirm pets are allowed in their building.
“Students tend to be in a transitional period and aren’t in the place to make these kind of life decisions. We believe pets are a lifelong commitment — part of the family,” Kern said.
Kern added that landlords will find abandoned pets at their properties at the end of the semester and the Humane Society is often called to rescue the animals.
Rubin said students should think about the future before adopting a pet so that incidents like this don’t happen.
“If a person’s going to rent a house and knows what the future’s going to be like, that makes sense (to own a pet),” he said. “If a dog ends up in a pound, that’s a shame.”
Kern said many University students volunteer at the animal shelter, which is a great alternative to owning a pet.
“A lot of times, they’ll come and volunteer for us,” she said. “Dogs need to be walked three times a week, and there’s cat cuddling people can come in and do.”
LSA junior Lauren Lewis said she finds it difficult to balance school with raising her 8-month-old husky named Moose.
“Moose is a crier in the morning, so he gets up at 7. I don’t have class till 10,” Lewis said.
Around 10 a.m., one of her friends feeds him while Lewis is in class. In the afternoon, she takes Moose to one of Ann Arbor’s dog parks, where they often play with dogs of other students.
“I think Moose is the cutest (at the dog park), and he is,” Lewis said. “Everyone agrees.”
Lewis said Moose sleeps for about four hours every afternoon, which allows her time to study. At night, Lewis explained that Moose gets “very rambunctious,” and so she has to take him for a walk.
“It’s harder than I thought it was, but I love it. I love Moose,” she said.
LSA junior Kristin Boyer, who owns a hamster named Reuben, said owning a hamster is a great, low-maintenance form of entertainment.
“A lot of people will come over to our house to play with him … We let him run out in his ball,” Boyer said, adding that she’s even made a Facebook page for him.
Entertainment aside, Reuben has created a bit of house drama.
“My roommates didn’t like him in the main area because they thought he smelled,” Boyer said.
An LSA senior, who requested anonymity because the student’s landlords don’t know about the student’s two cats Raja and Nala, said caring for cats is easy because they only need to be fed and have their litter box cleaned. The most important thing is making sure they don’t escape from the house, the cat owner said.
“The worst thing that could happen in Ann Arbor is having cats on the loose. I thought they got out once. It was terrible,” the cat owner said, adding that Raja and Nala were eventually found in a hamper.
Though Trapper’s owner admitted that it’s hard to leave the house often, the owner said being a student and raising a dog isn’t much of a hassle.
“It’s really comforting having a dog at the house,” Trapper’s owner said. “I just really like being with him.”