Some University of Richmond students add pets to their on-campus housing inventories each year.

One senior, who chose to remain anonymous, lives in the University Forest Apartments with his pet hamster, Edward van Schoon Hoven Kingsley.

The senior described the special bond he shared with his pet as Kingsley's father figure. "He doesn't bite me," he said. "He bites other people."

Pets should be allowed on campus because studies have indicated that pet owners have a higher level of happiness than people without pets, he said. "I get lonely without pets," he said.

Kingsley, who the senior and his apartmentmates decided to purchase after a night of margaritas at Mexico Restaurant, spends his time in his owner's room or rolling around the apartment in his ball, he said.

"It's just joy, something out of the ordinary," he said. "I love showing him off to people.

"The only thing we don't do is just let him run free. That's a recipe for disaster. We tried that the first couple weeks and he stayed under my bed for about two hours."

At first, the men were concerned that the custodial staff responsible for cleaning the bathroom every Thursday would see Kingsley and report him, he said. For a while they closed Kingsley in the senior's bedroom on Thursdays, but found it to be a hassle and decided to stop worrying about the possibility of discovery, he said.

"It's never been reported," he said. "So I think no one really cares that much."

Living with a hamster does not impede his academic responsibilities or those of others, he said. The only issue is playing with him too much, he said.

But the men overlooked Kingsley's nocturnal habits, which mostly involve rattling the wheel in his cage all night, the source said. "We were just like, 'Oh, nocturnal, we'll change him,'" he said.

They have not changed him.

Instead, they put Kingsley's cage under the bathroom sink at night, where he has plenty of room, he said.

Empty alcohol containers are one popular form of fish storage, several students said. One senior said he had kept a fish named Smirnoff in a 1.5 liter bottle about two years ago in UFA. "I loved him," he said.

It does not matter whether pets are kept in dorms or in apartments, as long as the owners love them, he said.

Richmond has double standards about pet ownership on campus because Andy Gurka, the UFA area coordinator until fall 2009, lived with a dog, the source said.

Senior Jenny Riande and UFA resident, who also chose to remain anonymous, identified Richmond's current hypocrisy concerning what belongs in campus housing.

Both seniors knowingly broke the university's pet policy, which says that no pet is allowed in university residence halls or apartments, refers violators to the Office of Undergraduate Student Housing and orders them to remove the animal within 24 hours, according to the Student Handbook for 2010-2011.

Riande received several visits from Bernard Little, the UFA area coordinator who lived in the 600 block with his wife and infant child, for inspection, the source said.

"If he can have a child, I can have a chinchilla," she said.

She lived with a chinchilla in her apartment for a year and a half. "Everyone loved him," Riande said.

Her first chinchilla, King Cozy, lasted one week, the source said. He died when his intestines mysteriously fell out, she said.

PetSmart replaced the chinchilla with Frosty Jr., and Riande said she took him to an animal hospital near Short Pump every three months for check-ups.

Frosty Jr. had two chinchillas as play partners living in a dorm with a Richmond College male, she said.

"Everyone knew I had a chinchilla on campus," she said. "Even the school knew."

Frosty Jr. was discovered after a fire inspection and the student received an email from the housing office and was fined $25, she said.

Riande continued to keep Frosty Jr. hidden in her apartment until December 2010, when she found him a home with a woman off campus in expectation of her graduation, she said.

Other known violators of the pet policy own or have owned a turtle in a Richmond College dorm, a rabbit in North Court, a small dog in Lakeview and a snake in UFA, several students said.

The 24-hour rule for pet removal is a technicality, said Carolyn Bigler, the assistant director of student housing. After a student is referred to Bigler by the area coordinator, she emails the student, she said. "I really try to work with them," she said.

If the student plans to go home in a reasonable amount of time, he or she can wait to take the pet home, she said. Otherwise, she works with the student to try to find an agency or someone off campus who can take the animal, she said.

She and Joan Lachowski, the director of undergraduate student housing, make extensive attempts to protect and ensure a positive outcome for the forbidden animal, Bigler said.

While there have been few known violators of Richmond's pet policy lately, the standards and consequences continue to be in effect for two reasons, Bigler said.

Reptiles were one issue, she said. A lot of students thought exotic animals like snakes and lizards were entertaining, Bigler said.

Rumor has it that years ago snakes brought onto campus by students would often wind up in the underground steam system, where they would then have access to the plumbing system and show up in toilets, she said.

The second reason is previous displays of irresponsibility by pet owners, she said. In years past, students have not taken proper measures to keep their pets supervised and fed when they have left them on campus during breaks, she said.

"It breaks our hearts when this kind of stuff happens," she said.

Although some pets, particularly fish and turtles, used to be allowed on campus, Bigler said, "we stopped it for the benefit of the animals."

Contact staff writer Katie Toussaint at katie.toussaint@richmond.edu

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