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Puppy love limited by Public Safety

Elizabeth Clayton

Many Mills students have been in classes with dogs and have seen them running around campus with their owners. While Mills may seem like a dog-friendly campus to casual observers, to many students and faculty who own dogs the reality can be much different. Both students and faculty have reported having problems getting permits, some saying that public safety has told them they are no longer giving out dog permits at all, leaving Mills dog owners frustrated over apparent lack of communication from public safety over this issue.

Public safety officer Darnita White refuted the allegations that public safety has stopped giving out dog permits. “I don’t know where they got that information from. The guard at the front will send them [to public safety.] We give permits to any actively enrolled students and faculty.”

White did say that Mills has limited their dog permits to only Mills students and teachers, after what she called “a horrible accident where an employee’s arm was almost literally ripped off.” In the past, anyone was able to get a permit to have their dog on campus. “A lot of people started coming here as if it was a dog park. It was clear that we had to do something because somebody had gotten hurt.” Today there are 56 dog permits on file with campus safety, down from over 130 when the permit process was more open.

Sophomore Cynthia Mercurio is the owner of two dogs who she used to occasionally bring to campus. Mercurio has not gotten a permit for either dog because of what she sees as the unnecessary hassle involved. “I haven’t gotten a permit because there are too many other things to do.”

For Mercurio, the inability to get a dog permit has added both inconvenience and expense to her life as a student. “I feel more comfortable studying at school, and I would love to be able to study in the Mary Atkins lounge, but I’m not able to bring my dogs there. I used to bring them [to Mary Atkins], but was told you weren’t allowed to have dogs there by campus safety. I have to pay two days a week for someone to take care of my dogs during the day. I really don’t like being away for my dogs that much. I don’t have any kids, so [my dogs] are my kids.”

Dean Morier, a psychology professor at Mills, tried to get a pass for his two dogs, but was turned away. “The reason I was given by folks in the public safety office was that they were not giving out any more dog permits because ‘people were treating Mills like a dog park.'” Morier calls trying to have a dog on campus a “Catch 22” “You need a pass to get on campus with a dog but you cannot get a pass.”

Morier has had students bring dogs into his classes in the past, “I have had two dogs sit through my [classes.] The two dogs were “toy” dogs, so it was no big deal. I am a dog lover and I liked having those two dogs in class but a larger dog might be a problem. Some students are allergic to dogs or are afraid of them so I think the large animals shouldn’t come to class.”

Morier does not believe that having dogs on campus is a problem or that Mills has a problem with existing dogs on campus that would leave public safety to stop giving out permits. “I think faculty, staff, and students should be able to get passes for their dogs to come on campus if they can demonstrate they are well-behaved, kept on leash, and the owners clean up after them.”

One student who does bring her dog on campus with her is sophomore Saranique Schwartz. Her almost five-month-old Chihuahua, Kahlo, comes to class with her and often sleeps tucked inside of her sweatshirt. Schwartz has been unable to get a permit for Kahlo but continues to bring her to campus despite problems with public safety.

“I was harassed [by public safety] when she was a puppy, because they wanted her to have a rabies vaccine, even though she was too young to get one. I went back after she got [her rabies shot] and they said they weren’t giving out dog permits anymore. I think that its ridiculous to have to pay for dog permits, because as students we pay so much to be here anyway.” Schwartz sees no problem with having Kahlo on campus. “I’ve experienced no negativity from anyone except campus safety. I asked a couple of my professors before I started bringing her to class, and they said ‘I love dogs, of course.’ I’ve never had a professor ask me not to bring her.”

White did say that dogs are required to have their shots, and a copy of vaccine documentation is kept in the public safety office along with a copy of the dog’s city license, the Mills dog permit, and a photo of the dog. Each dog is assigned a number that is given to the officer at the front gate when entering campus so that public safety is aware of which and how many dogs are on campus at a given time. White said that public safety has never denied a permit for a dog that has its shots and other documentation and belongs to an eligible owner.

According to White, if a dog is on campus without a permit the owner will first be given a verbal warning, that they need to get a permit or not have the dog on campus. After that they can be given a $10 citation from campus safety anytime they have an un-permitted dog on campus. Dogs are not allowed in eating areas, as it is considered a health hazard.