Creature comforts: Students sneak pets into dorms

She didn’t expect to bring Hamtaro home to 1959 E Street, after a friend found him wandering around South Hall.

And the senior couldn’t help but take in two turtles that friends picked up in Chinatown.

“They’re nice to come home to. Especially after long days, you just want to come home and cuddle with a pet or something like that,” the senior, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

Pets are banned from residence halls, and keeping them means being constantly prepared to hide them under the bed or in the closet in case of a surprise visit from Facilities Services. Crews do room check-ins twice annually, and during the academic year, students usually have one day to give the animal to a family member or a friend. If they get caught.

The senior said when facilities officials performed a safety inspection this semester, a staff member looked at the hamster, Hamtaro, but said nothing. She said she’s not worried about her turtles – Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie and Kathleen Kenyon, named after famous archaeologists – either.

“I wanted something low maintenance, so I just made sure it wasn’t something I’d have to worry about constantly,” the senior said. Still, the animals are mischievous, and the four roommates often experience “Dr. Doolittle moments,” she said. The roommates sometimes wake up with Hamtaro on them after he escapes from his cage.

House staff members rarely hear complaints about pets more than once a semester, and almost never during academic breaks, Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller said. University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard declined to provide the number of instances in which students have been caught with pets in residence halls.

This year, though, staff members found a hedgehog and a cat in two different rooms over the winter break, Miller said. The University turned the animals over to the Washington Humane Society.

Michael Triebwasser, a humane law enforcement officer, said reports of animal cruelty in GW residence halls are uncommon.

Others say they have not been caught.

One sophomore in Guthridge Hall said she shared a kitten for several weeks with her two roommates. One of the roommates, who lives in Baltimore, said she coordinated her schedule around dorm inspections and holiday breaks to bring the kitten home and take it to the vet. When the kitten became too restless to remain in their room, it went to stay in Baltimore, the roommate said.

Kaitlin Rzendzian, a senior who lived in Ivory Tower last year, said she took care of a puppy for six weeks last fall until it was old enough for adoption.

Rzendzian slipped down eight flights of stairs in the back of the building three times a day to take the puppy, Abby, out for a walk.

Although the trips up and down stairs were “a pain in the butt,” Rzendzian said caring for the dog was easy overall. But she added, “winter or summer break would have been a different story.”

It wasn’t tough for freshman Kally Vanderbilt to keep a turtle in Potomac House last semester, just hiding Puddles under her jacket when she brought it into the building. She said a house staff member noticed the animal’s tank during room checks but did not take any action.

Jake Wolf, a 2011 graduate headed to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall, said his time at GW wouldn’t have been complete without his hamster, two frogs, a fish and two snakes.

“I’ve always had animals and quite a variety of them,” Wolf, who would bring his pets home to upstate New York during breaks, said. “I didn’t want that absent from four years of experience.”

He said he came across the hamster as it scurried across Kogan Plaza one night and brought it back to his room in Ivory Tower. The hamster mostly roamed around his room, and once got caught in his laundry. When house staff inspected his room one day, he hid the hamster in its cage underneath the sink.

Wolf said he still has his two frogs and Betta fish from his time at GW.

Off-campus students have also found ways to own pets in violation of apartment building regulations. A senior, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she never filed the necessary paperwork for her Yorkshire Terrier, Teddy, at the 2400 M Apartments building.

She often brings Teddy to a friend’s room at the Statesmen Apartments building on F Street, which prohibits pets, and even “snuck him into a 4RIDE [shuttle] twice.”

Karolina Ramos contributed to this report

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