It’s no surprise that being around pets can have many benefits on a person’s well-being—from reducing stress to increased happiness. Now, one New Mexico institution is looking to capitalize on that by becoming one of the first colleges in the nation to allow pets in dorms.

For many, pets are an important part of the family and having to leave them behind to go to school may be difficult.

“Looking at that and saying, ‘Why should they abandon what they’ve had all their life? Why should they set that aside while they’re college students?'” said Suzanne Helmes, Assistant Director, Business Operations Residence Life Student Housing.

Starting in the fall of 2019, the University of New Mexico will be launching a new pilot program called “Pet Permitted Residence Hall Communities,” in which two residence halls have been designated as pet-friendly.

The residence halls include a traditional dorm, Santa Clara Hall, and one of the Student Residence Center apartment buildings.

“That is a whole community that will be pet-friendly. Next year, it will have 150 beds. Half of them are singles, half of them are doubles,” said Helmes.

Officials say the idea came from looking at other universities around the country that have already implemented this program, and from feedback from student surveys.

“Past exit surveys, one of the reasons for them not staying with us was because they wanted to have an animal, so they were living off campus,” said Helmes.

That means that starting next semester, students can have dogs, cats, small mammals, and reptiles or amphibians living in their dorm rooms.

As for allergies, officials say all of those issues will be addressed during the application process when they opt to either be a pet owner or not be a pet owner, but live in one of these pet-friendly communities.

“If someone goes into the hall and then realizes later they have an allergy situation, we have a room change process. They will be accommodated. We’ll be able to move them,” said Helmes.

Students say they’re excited about the idea and the benefits that could come from having a furry companion.

“Pets are fun to have around. They really keep you calm, especially since college is really stressful,” said Claire Plymale, student.

“Besides the just the joy, think about finals week,” said Katie Weinland, student. 

Officials behind the pilot program hope that this will not only drum up enrollment, but also teach students about responsibility.

“Just being mindful of taking care of themselves, taking care of their classes, and taking care of their animals. It’s kind of like learning how to be an adult,” said Helmes.

Officials say the pets are only allowed in the residence halls and can’t go into the dining halls or classrooms.

The obvious exception would be students with certified service dogs, who can go into any UNM facility. They also have the option to live in one of these pet permitted communities.

Just like living in an apartment, there are fees students must pay to have pets in the dorms.

To see a full list of rules and restrictions, click here.