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Undergrads Hide Illegal Pets

Students: No Pets Rule `Cruel and Unusual Punishment'

By Scott M. Finn

Do you want someone to snuggle up with during the cold winter nights to come? Would you like that someone to nibble on your ear? Or even lick your face?

If you answered yes to all three questions, one option might be to try calling a dating service. But many students at Harvard have opted for a fuzzier alternative.

Although University policy strictly prohibits students from keeping animals, birds or reptiles in College dorms, a number of students interviewed this week said they had decided to risk the wrath of Harvard rather than forsake their furry companions.

Each year, a resourceful few manage to escape discovery. But other undergraduate pet owners say they have not been so lucky.

Sarah Sidman '93 said she had brought a Cairn terrier named Pipi to her room in Dunster House this year--only to have it barred from the dorm by a rule-conscious superintendent.

"The minute [Pipi] got here, she ran into the superintendent's office," Sidman explained. "Later when I walked her, she ran up to the [superintendent] and jumped on his legs."

"All the [superintendent] said was to get the dog out of here as soon as possible," Sidman said.

Sidman said she had not purposely set out to defy Harvard regulations, but that she had no choice. "My mom has been traveling, and the hotels wouldn't keep Pipi," Sidman explained, adding that the terrier now resides with friends in the Boston area.

Like Sidman, many students said that Harvard's inflexibility on the subject of pets has left them confused and upset.

"It is cruel and unusual punishment not to allow us to have animals," said one Adams House junior, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Animals have always been a part of my life...[they are a] great therapy."

The junior said that she and her three room-mates in Adams House have circumvented College rules to house a pet rabbit named Lobster in their room since the beginning of the year.

"Lobster is a cheery face to come home to," the junior said. "And she never complains about homework."

A junior in Lowell House said the combined cooperation of her room-mates and the house superintendent made it possible for her to keep a four-month-old Siamese cat named "C.P."--short for "Cuteness Personified."

"My roommate called ahead to see if it was all right. The [superintendent] didn't really seem to mind," the junior said. "If you want a pet at Harvard, you can keep it," she said.

The junior added that although the "no pets allowed" rule has added an element of risk to her daily life, she is glad that the rule is on the books.

"I think they try to discourage...people from buying an animal and then abandoning it at the end of the year. A pet isn't just for a year," she said. "It's for life."

The pet rule does not apply for proctors or tutors living on campus. Karen L. Heath '84, a senior advisor for the North Yard and a proctor in Mower, owns a one-year old cat named Natasha. She said the reason for the exception is not to frustrate students, but to protect pets.

"I'm sure this is one rule some students aren't happy with, but since undergrads are so busy, I can see where pets could become neglected," Heath said. "Proctors can own pets because they live here year-round, which lends stability to the pet."

Other students said they were annoyed with the rule for different reasons. First-year student Elye J. Alexander '94, who keeps a weevil in an Absolut bottle in his room, said the pet rule is too "ambiguous."

Alexander, acknowledged that his weevil technically violates University policy. But realistically, he said that he does not think it hurts anyone.

"The weevil is quiet and well-kept, and liked by all of the dorm. It would be ridiculous to have to get rid of it," Alexander said.

But for others, the ambiguity of the rule has been a blessing.

One Harvard senior, the proud owner of a mudpuppy salamander named Rocky, said the wording of the rule was the reason he was ultimately allowed to keep his pet.

"[The senior tutor] said he didn't believe such an animal existed, so he couldn't tell me if I was breaking the rules, "the senior said.

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