Campus pet policy being developed
By Colleen MacPherson
A new University policy that is wending its way toward approval could see Rover or Fluffy spending their days in doggie daycare or the kitty kennels instead of at the office with their owners.
Although still in draft form, the animal control policy developed by the Department of Health, Safety and Environment will give the University a tool for dealing with complaints about pets in campus buildings, including residences. According to Community Safety Manager Janice Lavoie, the policy is designed to address a variety of concerns that have been raised over and over about animals.
"There have been lots of incidents over the years, including incidents where people have been bitten, and obviously this doesn't go away. Now, with this policy, when there's a problem or complaint, we can deal with it."
In its current form, the draft policy states animals are not permitted inside University buildings, vehicles or facilities and are prohibited from posted sites on campus like the farm areas. All animals on the grounds must be on a leash and under control at all times.
For the purposes of the policy, an animal is defined as "any living creature having voluntary motion, other than a human being".
Lavoie, who is circulating the policy to a number of groups for input, said the presence of animals in buildings raises very legitimate concerns for many people, not the least of which are allergies and other medical issues. Complaints may also arise due to people's fears and phobias around certain animals, noise and owners not picking up after their pets. The policy is also intended to protect the animals that call campus their home - research and farm animals as well as patients at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine - from the risk of disease.
Many believe the problems around pets in buildings can be solved simply by using common sense, Lavoie said, "but it's not as simple an issue as it seems. I might really enjoy the sound of love birds in my office but the person next door might find it very disruptive. I might think that snakes are terrific but the person next door might not find snakes so terrific so then there's a disagreement."
Even fish are not exempt. While there is little worry "that fish are running amok, if a tank isn't maintained and becomes mouldy and gross, there could be an air quality concern.
"Of course we're not going to be patrolling the hallways looking for people who have a fish tank in their office, but if there's a complaint, we now have a policy to deal with it."
Lavoie said the draft document has received strong support so far but she is under no illusions that there won't be resistance, most likely from "people who like to bring their pets in for company or don't want to leave them at home alone all day".
People who bring pets, mainly dogs, to work at night because they feel unsafe on campus might also object to the policy but Lavoie said there are always other personnel to be considered.
"If I come to work late at night and bring my German shepherd, what about the caretaker who doesn't know I'm there, opens the door and is greeted by a big dog? If people are feeling unsafe, they need to bring those concerns forward to us and we'll deal with them. We have Safewalk, we have Security Services, we have check-in and check-out procedures. I might feel safer with a gun in my purse or a pit bull in my office but that doesn't address the reasons I feel unsafe."
A number of animals are identified in the policy as being exempt from the rules. These include research, teaching and other animals owned by the University; animals involved in academic pursuits or clinical services such as veterinary medicine; service animals assisting people with disabilities, exhibit or demonstration animals; and police dogs.
The animal control policy will return to the University's Policy Committee after this round of consultations, Lavoie said, then will go the Board of Governors for approval this fall.
The draft policy can be viewed online at: http://adminsrv.usask.ca/hse/