The student body is getting some furry company — the four-legged kind — at La Salle University.

The Catholic college in the city’s Logan neighborhood announced this week that it would become the first in the region to allow upperclassmen to have dogs as pets in a residence hall, beginning in the fall.

Dogs fit for admission must weigh under 30 pounds. Certain larger or more aggressive breeds — including Dobermans, German shepherds, pit bulls, and Rottweilers — need not apply.

The idea grew out of a university twice-a-year event where faculty and staff are encouraged to bring their pets to work to mingle with the student body.

“The onslaught of students who wanted to come out and pet our pets was overwhelming,” said Dawn Soufleris, vice president of student affairs. “We’re talking hundreds of students coming out. That joy and calmness, the sheer happiness, made us think, you know what, we might want to look at this a little more closely.”

Schools locally and nationally, including La Salle, allow dogs and other pets if they are required for therapeutic reasons or if they are service animals. At La Salle, 14 “emotional support” animals currently live on campus, including 11 dogs, two cats, and a gecko.

One of La Salle president Colleen Hanycz's Schnauzers, Jack, visits with students on campus.
La Salle University
One of La Salle president Colleen Hanycz's Schnauzers, Jack, visits with students on campus.

Some colleges also allow pets for simple joy. Delaware Valley University welcomes fish, hermit crabs, “approved snakes,” lizards and amphibians, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, mice, and rabbits. At one time, cats could come, too. But the school put a pause on that.

Nationally, some universities are known for their pet-friendly policies and appear on a variety of top 20 or 25 pet-friendly college lists. At Stephens College in Missouri, the president’s office offers dog treats, and there’s a doggy day-care on campus. Few schools in Pennsylvania appear on the lists, with the exceptions of Delaware Valley; Washington and Jefferson in the western part of the state, where eligible dogs and cats must weigh 40 pounds or less; and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, where dogs and cats are allowed in fraternity and sorority houses.

Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., is noted on some lists for its equestrian program.

Could La Salle carve a niche for itself locally in the pet field?

Soufleris acknowledged that the dog-friendly policy will likely be a strong recruiting tool, one that its collegiate neighbors don’t have. That could be key, given La Salle’s problemsin recent years with enrollment and finances, a struggle it is far from alone in having.

La Salle will allow dogs in St. George Hall, a 55-bed residence hall with single and double rooms. Roommates must agree to a dog, and the pets can be walked around campus if on a leash. There will be other requirements, including a $100-per-semester fee to cover any needed clean up.

Dogs have long had a special spot in the hearts of many top administrators at La Salle. President Colleen Hanycz has four Schnauzers. Soufleris has a Schnoodle named Diva.

La Salle, which enrolls nearly 5,200 undergraduate and graduate students, sees many benefits to having dogs, including building responsibility in student pet owners and encouraging exercise via dog walking. Dogs also relieve anxiety and stress, she said.

If the program succeeds, La Salle is prepared to expand it, Soufleris said.