BYU housing: Students have forbidden friends

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A dog is said to be a man’s best friend, but as a BYU student, that best friend is forbidden.

Some students at BYU want pets and will do whatever necessary to have them. For a BYU student, the problem is not acquiring an animal, rather it’s finding a way to get around the Off-Campus Housing Office’s rules.

“Any contracted BYU facility cannot have pets, ” Off-Campus Housing representative Chris Card said. “If people want to have pets, they cannot live in BYU-contracted housing, unless they go through a process to get it approved.”

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Daniel Tovar feeds his pet Sugar Glider.
Daniel Tovar, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering major, has chosen to live outside BYU-contracted housing to keep his two sugar gliders (small flying possums), Tiberius and Fudge. He got them for free with his last roommate and kept them even though his roommate graduated. He chose where to live this year based on whether or not his new roommates approved of them.

“I most definitely thought about [the sugar gliders] when I moved,” Tovar said. “The people were a huge factor in choosing where I live now.”

Although Tovar chose to live outside BYU contracted housing, others within it choose to have pets anyway.  Some students who disobey the pet rules have given their animals to a friend when it comes time for cleaning check, to avoid punishment.

Other residents, such as Alan Dennis, a UVU student living in contracted housing, avoid talking about the issue with management, and hope for the best. Dennis has a parrot named Goose living with him, and said the management has never been upset or asked him to get rid of it. His management changed this summer, and he said he worried he would have to get rid of him.

“I was nervous when she came in for cleaning check, because there’s no way to hide [a parrot],” Dennis said. “But all she did was ask if it was mine and what its name was.”

Other students go through a process with the University Accessibility Center to have their pets approved. Brooke Howse, a pre-management student, lives in Roman Gardens apartments and has her dog Rico approved as an emotional support animal. Although she has permission to live in any BYU contracted housing with Rico, she said she chose where to live based on roommates who were OK with him, because of problems she had in the past, including roommates with allergies.

“Technically I didn’t have to move out [of a previous complex] because it was a medical condition,” Howse said, “but I didn’t really want to live with someone who has a problem with him.”

To get an emotional-support animal approved, a student must meet with school counselors and have a pet prescribed as if it were a medicine. Michael Brooks, a director in the University Accessibility office, said about 20 students per year, the majority of whom are female, are granted approval of an emotional-support animal. The most common reason, he said, is depression.

“I think the arrangement works well, with research showing that individuals with depression or anxiety do benefit by having physical contact with their animals,” Brooks said. “That’s why dogs and cats are used.”

Once a student obtains an animal, whether approved or not, the problems are not over. Howse, as well as other pet owners, said it is important to make sure the animal can live happily in an apartment. Howse does not take Rico outside too often in the winter, but when it is warm enough, she said she likes to let him run around and get some air. She said she also has a grass pad in her bedroom for him to use, and spends much time playing with him. Tovar agreed, saying he spends about 10 hours a week playing with his sugar gliders.

Although Howse said it has been difficult to live with Rico, she is glad she went through the process of getting him approved.

“It would be less stress to get rid of him, it was a lot of work to get him approved,” Howse said. “But other than that, I think it’s been a really positive thing for me.”

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