AUC Dorm Zoo in a State of Harmony

By Pam van Schie

— Of the seven Dutch University Colleges with dormitories, AUC is the only one that allows students to have pets. The first reference to pet ownership in DUWO’s rental contracts for AUC students only appeared in the 2014 rental contract (clause 9.17.2), stating that DUWO has the right to forbid pets ‘in case of nuisance.’ As this ‘nuisance’ is to be determined by DUWO, it remains somewhat unclear what boundaries exist when it comes to animal tenants.

Were there no pets before 2014? There were – and not without the occasional issue. In August 2013, people complained about poop in front of their elevator, and Facebook discussions arose over the alleged origins of animal feces in the first building stairwell in March of last year. In April of 2014, a decapitated rabbit was found in the foyer of the first building and in October 2014, the first building fourth floor tenants flagged a stench so penetrating that they concluded  it was bound to be from a forgotten (animal) corpse.These, and many other cases of Facebook complaints that were pet-related, remain unsolved. Meanwhile, in January 2014, a “Where on earth is that cat?”Facebook page was set up,where people can post photos of the cats they find wondering around the corridors and chilling in people’s rooms.

Lia Sinnige, third year student here at AUC, shows her two guinea pigs’ birth certificates with a glow of pride. After a consult at a local pet store, she adopted Boef and Bear in January from a sanctuary in The Hague. They are fun play companions not only for Lia, but also for her friends. “People came to visit in the beginning, and I still have a couple of friends that babysit them every once in a while,” Lia says. “Really, the only complaints I’ve had were from someone who was here for a romantic sleepover and who wasn’t very pleased with being interrupted by guinea pig snorts.”

On September 19th, 2013, DUWO sent out a letter to all AUC students about pets in the dorms, declaring that “It [was] starting to look like a little zoo [with] rabbits, cats, dogs and animals we have never seen before and we don’t even know what they are.”

What baffled former caretaker Adel in 2013, and what later inspired this DUWO letter, turns out to have been a ferret. “This was not about my ferret actually, as he had died a while before then,” says Victor van Dooren, AUC alumni from the Class of 2014, upon being reminded of DUWO’s letter. “Let’s just say Joost wasn’t the only ‘AUC-ferret’.” Although Victor’s pet ferret stayed with his parents most of the time, he occasionally brought it over to the dorms. Apart from the occasional curious spectator asking what kind of animal Joost was, Victor reports he never encountered any difficulty with other students about his pet.

However, in its letter protesting the overwhelming presence of animals throughout the dorms, DUWO announced it would thence move all unattended animals to the animal shelter. So far, however, no students have reported that their animals have been taken away. In fact, many find that their pets have integrated quite nicely into the community without many issues.

When Emma Nicot and Blijde Ligthart, both first-year students, first learned they would be sharing a ground floor double room, Emma asked her roommate whether it would be okay if she brought her guinea pig, Papuche. Now, sharing the open space with the three of them, a natural system has occurred where Emma is Papuche’s primary caretaker, although Blijde scrubs in at times, and makes a habit of tip-toeing in the morning to avoid waking both her roommates up. Although Papuche does not always adhere to the same quiet time, all parties agree that their well-established routine makes for a pleasant living situation.

With most pets remaining within the comfort of their owner’s home, the commotion that arises surrounding pets is usually attributed to the cats that live in the dorms, of which Scuba, dubbed by many to have been AUC’s communal cat, has received the majority of accusations. Scuba actually belongs to Elsa van Latum, AUC alumni of the class of 2014. After Scuba moved in during Elsa’s first year, he would be lost for days exploring the dorms, looking to eat out at other student rooms. As Scuba felt at home anywhere, Elsa would have to pick him up somewhere on a weekly basis. Although sometimes others would do the favor of returning him, some also took the liberty of delivering other Scuba-associated items to Elsa. “I once found a plastic bag with a cat poo in front of my door,” Elsa says.

Sometimes, it was much clearer that Scuba was in fact the one to cause disturbance. In May 2012, a picture of a triumphant Scuba eating a caught rabbit surfaced on Facebook. To the numerous accusations directed at Scuba in the AUC Facebook group, Elsa responds, “Hey, that’s nature and also not really something I can help.” As DUWO caretaker Adel was a big fan of Scuba, Elsa is happy to report it was really more of a Facebook fad than a real-life issue.

Away from the commotion of the communal corridors, some students have nonetheless chosen to build a zoo within the comfort of their own homes. Although not entirely on purpose, Evi Hadjipieri, second-year student, recently found herself in possession of up to twelve hamsters at a time. What started out with two seemingly male Djungarian hamsters, turned out to be a hamster love story bearing six children. “Unfortunately, the mother ate one of the babies, but then another round of baby hamsters came along and I ended up having to give many of them away,” Evi says.

Fortunately, Evi and her roommate, Jael Goldschmidt, seem to be a pet-loving match made by DUWO. As the two hamsters that stayed with Evi, named Sheftalia and Koupa after traditional Cypriot food, have proceeded to make themselves more at home than ever by building a nest under Evi’s bed, so too have Jael’s two guinea pigs, Louis and Tina, been granted the entire floor of Jael’s bedroom to reside. With their double-room-turned-pet-playground, Evi and Jael confirm the image that pet owners in the dorms can live together harmoniously.

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