Anyone that has been to university can probably tell you stories about animals being kept SAS style in halls. I can tell you stories about everything from fish to sheep being kept in university halls, it was not uncommon to see a hamster cage being passed between flats on inspection day or a cry for help on the university message boards saying, “Can anyone look after my snake for a night so he doesn’t get found?” Pets were hidden under beds, in cupboards and locked in bathrooms whenever the maintenance team came around (on the rare occasion they responded to one of our problems).
My own flat began our journey of illegally keeping pets early on in our first year. We bought a couple of fish from a local pet shop. We were both nervous and excited as we sat in our kitchen setting up their tank. Some of my flatmates were very apprehensive about getting found out but we reassured them because how much trouble could we really get in for fish? Nevertheless, they spent the first few weeks of their life in one of our rooms, until we decided that they were definitely going to die if we left them in there because she would forget to feed them or kill them by petting them. So, we moved our beloved mascots into the kitchen. They were well hidden in the corner so the maid that was meant to inspect the cleanliness of our kitchen every week would not see them. After a month or two of having the fish it was time for our first proper flat inspection. We sent our fish to our friends flat for the night, one of my flatmates described it as being divorced and sending your kids to your exes for the weekend. After this first flat inspection we stopped caring about whether the university caught us and left the fish in plain sight, as it turns out the university didn’t care much about our fish either and we kept them without problem. Sadly they did not make it until the end of the year, we had to say goodbye to them about a month before we left.
The real fun began when I came back for my last term at university. I had been gifted a gecko and with the agreement of my flatmates I kept him in my room in halls. As you can imagine keeping a gecko out of sight is a lot harder than keeping fish out of sight and would probably incur more serious consequences if he was found. He lived at the foot of my bed behind our bathroom door. I tried to avoid maintenance men coming into my room at all costs, resorted to fixing anything that when wrong with superglue and youtube. But the inevitably we had to have a flat inspection before we left. I spent the whole night before trying to work out how I was going to make his tank look like I just had a random table at the foot of my bed. I turned him around, unscrewed things, cover him with blankets, pillows, hide plugs, literally everything I could think of doing. The next morning I opened the bathroom door to hide his cage and waited nervously for the inspector to come in praying my gecko wouldn’t suddenly start running around. I went to all this trouble for the inspectors to step into my door way and go “yep that’s fine” and leave again. All that trouble and the guy didn’t even look at my room properly, safe to say I was a little annoyed.
Luckily I never got caught with my gecko and my landlord this year has allowed him to stay with me. Now for a little bit of advice to anyone considering harbouring a small friendly fugitive in their rooms, do so at your own risk. Cats, dogs and anything that does not live in a cage (like a sheep) are a big no. My friend’s university was raided because someone let their pet escape, so everyone got their pets taken. My university never suspected a thing, so I got to keep them without problem. If you want a caged pet in your room be prepared to deal with hiding it and any consequences should your friend be found. Even bigger pets that are kept in cages probably aren’t a good idea, personally anything bigger than a hamster is going to be too much hassle. Note I am not telling anyone to break the contract with the university merely offering advice for those of you who inevitably will. Never get a pet without the agreement of your flatmates as being found could cause problems for all of you, so they must be prepared in case that happens. Think about the size and shape of its cage (i.e can you hide it?), and the noise. Having a guinea pig squealing in your room whenever anyone is around isn’t going to be ideal. Before you get a pet at university, put a lot of thought into it and for the love of God look after them don’t get them on impulse because they looked cute.