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25 Great Small Colleges for Animal Lovers

Great Value Colleges - Small CollegesBy Gabrielle Kratsas
June 2015

Choosing the best college can be difficult for animal lovers because most schools do not allow pets, and not many schools offer many–or any–animal-related degree programs. However, there are plenty of small colleges for animal lovers in the U.S., and luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of 25 great small schools for animal lovers.


The following list of schools was compiled using information from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database as well as the individual schools’ websites. To start, we compiled a long list of colleges that have student populations under 10,000. We then used a number of articles about both top schools and programs for animal lovers to narrow down the list. While choosing these schools, the number of animal-related sports and clubs; the school’s pet policies; the number of animal-related events and places on campus; and the number of animal-focused courses/degree programs were considered. Each school’s position on this list is ranked by the number of points we’ve given it toward being nature lover-friendly so that our No. 1 school has the most points and No. 25 has the least.

The point system works as follows:

  • 1 point per each animal-related sport and club
  • 2 points if the school’s pet policy allows animals in residence halls
  • 2 points if the school hosts animal-related events and/or places on campus
  • 1 point per each animal-focused degree program

25. Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, N.C.

Points Awarded: 2
Student Population: 1,440
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12 to 1

Mars Hill University doesn’t allow any pets inside of campus buildings and residence halls that aren’t service animals. However, this small liberal arts college is unusual in that it offers an undergraduate degree program in zoology, which focuses on animal biology. In this program, students will gain hands-on experience both in and outside of the classroom. Plus, they can incorporate their major with certain extracurricular activities, such as the campus’ Outdoor Center.

24. Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Points Awarded: 3
Student Population: 3,993
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 8 to 1
Union University is a Christian college in Tennessee—one of the other very few Christian colleges to offer zoology as a degree program for students. According to the Department of Biology’s website, “Undergraduate research projects have included effect of diet on reproductive success of birds, a wild turkey population assessment at a local Army base, environmental effects of predator-prey interactions in fish, and measuring the effectiveness of different treatments on parasite load of animals at the Tennessee Safari Park.”

Students can also major in conservation biology, which, if they meet the requirements, can lead them to become certified wildlife biologists.

23. Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, Ky.

Points Awarded: 3
Student Population: 657
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11 to 1

Kentucky Wesleyan College is another one of the few small colleges in the country that offers a major in zoology. With this degree, students can obtain careers in the areas of wildlife resources, wildlife conservation, fisheries biology and more. KWC also offers a pre-professional preparation program for students seeking to continue their education in veterinary medicine.

22. North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Points Awarded: 4
Student Population: 6,029
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15 to 1

Out of the four animal-related degree programs offered at North Idaho College, the forestry/wildlife/range management transfer program may be the rarest on this list. In this associate’s degree program, students take courses that cover zoology, botany, wildlife biology, forest ecology and more.

21. Western New Mexico University in Silver City, N.M.

Points Awarded: 4
Student Population: 3,560
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

At Western New Mexico University, students have the chance to study biology, forest wildlife law enforcement, zoology and forest/wildlife. Do you love animals so much that you wish to spend your life career protecting their innocent lives? Then take the opportunity to major in forest wildlife law enforcement to become a game warden or wildlife enforcement officer at the state level.

20. California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

Points Awarded: 4
Student Population: 2,181
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 3 to 1
The California Institute of Technology is all about cats! Although the campus does not allow dogs, students are able to own up to two cats in each living unit within the seven residence halls that permit these furry friends. Other pets, housed in a 20-gallon or smaller aquarium or terrarium are permitted, but birds, rodents and dogs are not allowed in on-campus housing.

At Caltech, students can also get involved in the Caltech Animal Team or CAT, which is a club devoted to caring for homeless and abandoned animals, specifically cats. Through rescuing and fostering the feral cats on campus and around nearby grounds, this branch of the Collegiate Animal Team works to manage the cat populations, keep the animals safe and healthy and provide care, products and services to others on campus who own or adopt these feline friends.

19. Malone University in Canton, Ohio

Points Awarded: 4
Student Population: 2,074
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11 to 1

Malone University only allows fish tanks under 20 gallons in the residence halls, but the school’s BA in zoo and wildlife biology degree program is meant for those who love working with animals. Through this program, students will get firsthand experience working at zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, parks, nature preserves and more.

To take this interest further, students are able to join the Zoological Organization of Malone (ZOOM) student organization. Club members take trips to zoos and other centers, meet speakers from a variety of animal-related professions and volunteer with local organizations.

18. Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa.

Points Awarded: 4
Student Population: 1,328
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

Washington & Jefferson College allows any student to bring non-carnivorous fish on campus, and those students living in designated housing are permitted to bring larger pets like cats and dogs as long as the pet policy guidelines are met.

W&J also has a great equestrian team that competes in a wide variety of local, regional and zonal competitions throughout both fall and spring semesters.

17. Principia College in Elsah, Ill.

Points Awarded: 4
Student Population: 508
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 8 to 1

Not only does Principia College allow any dogs, cats, rabbits, caged animals and aquatic pets within the campus and college-owned housing—as long as the owners follow the school’s pet policy—but the campus also allows animals to be unleashed outside if they are supervised and under control. To keep the campus from turning into a zoo, Principia has its own faculty-represented Animal Relations committee.

16. SUNY College at Oswego in Oswego, N.Y.

Points Awarded: 5
Student Population: 8,117
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

SUNY College at Oswego does allow some pets in the residence halls, but according to the school’s website, “For the sake of everyone’s sanity, we have some limitations on pets you’re allowed to bring.” Sadly, as of August 2014, that pet policy has heightened its limitations, and the school now only permits fish tanks up to 20 gallons.

Still, the college offers zoology as a BA, BS and minor program. Within these programs, students can choose among elective courses like mammalogy, herpetology, entomology, animal ecology, behavior and animal physiology.

In the past, SUNY Oswego student and faculty members have created projects and conducted research that would make all animal lovers proud, such as a Wolf Wellness study performed by a professor and a student to impact how wolves and other animals are raised at zoos and in captivity around the country.

15. Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

Points Awarded: 5
Student Population: 7,096
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

Although the campus housing at Lehigh University only allows students to own fish, each campus fraternity and sorority house is permitted to own a maximum of one cat or dog.

Lehigh also offers a biology degree program, an equestrian club and other animal-related clubs like the Lehigh University Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club. LU Pre-Vet Club brings like-minded students together and helps them with hands-on learning activities and support in choosing the right undergraduate classes.

14. Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill.

Points Awarded: 5
Student Population: 4,579
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16 to 1

Fish are the only pets that students at Olivet Nazarene University are allowed to have in the on-campus housing. However, there are only a handful of Christian colleges and universities that offer a degree in zoology, and Olivet is one of them. Here, students get to study animals’ natural habitats, their classifications, life cycles and behaviors in the classroom, in the laboratory and outside.

Animal-loving students can also get involved in the biophilic and equestrian clubs.

13. Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich.

Points Awarded: 5
Student Population: 3,516
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

Although students are not permitted to live with their pets on campus at Andrews University, the school offers a superb undergraduate degree program in animal science. Within the BS of animal science degree program, students can choose to place an emphasis on pre-veterinary medicine, management or equine science through their curriculum. Within the BS in biology degree program, students can choose to focus on zoology, where they will take classes like animal behavior and marine ecology.

It’s no surprise that all five points that this school has earned come from their academics. Through the Department of Agriculture at Andrews, students can get a four-year degree in animal husbandry, which will train them to work in many aspects of the livestock and companion animal industries.

11. Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

Points Awarded: 6
Student Population: 8,293
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21 to 1

The pet policy at Humboldt State University prohibits warm-blooded, feather and poisonous pets, but students are allowed to have fish, reptiles and amphibians within aquariums under 10 gallons.

Animal-related undergraduate degree programs at Humboldt include biology, fisheries biology, wildlife and zoology. The campus is also host to a few animal-loving clubs and organizations like the California Waterfowl Association.

10. Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.

Points Awarded: 6
Student Population: 4,044
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13 to 1

Stetson University includes fish, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, guinea pigs, rats, mice, cats and certain dog breeds and sizes within their definition of “acceptable campus pets,” which are allowed to live with students in designated animal-friendly housing options. In addition to animal-friendly housing, the campus provides students with enclosed dark park areas where the animals are allowed to be unleashed and socialized.

In addition to the traditional biology degree program offered by most of the schools on this list, marine animal-loving students have the option to major in marine biology as well. For those students looking for animal-related extracurricular activities, the Providing Animals With Service (PAWS) student organization offers a social service that is dedicated to helping animals.

9. SUNY College of Technology at Canton in Canton, N.Y.

Points Awarded: 7
Student Population: 3,512
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19 to 1

Since 1997, SUNY Canton has provided students with its well-known Pet Wing housing option, which permits students to live with small, caged pets from home that are approved by the residence hall director. The only animals not permitted in this living environment include dogs, birds and snakes.

Academically, this school offers three majors to those interested in animals, including a BBA in veterinary service administration, a AAS in veterinary science technology and a BS in veterinary technology.

8. Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.

Points Awarded: 7
Student Population: 2,431
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12 to 1

Although students are not permitted to have pets, Alfred University has its own Daggett Equestrian Center just a few minutes from campus. Through this center and the equestrian studies program, professors teach equine theory classes in subjects like equine science and course design, as well as English and Western riding and draft horse driving.

Alfred also offers students a great pre-veterinary program with an accompanying pre-vet student organization. Just last year, a handful of Alfred University students were featured in the news for volunteering to help raise and train guide dogs for the blind.

7. Stephens College in Columbia, Mo.

Points Awarded: 8
Student Population: 854
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1
Stephens College, considered one of the most pet-friendly campuses in the country, has been allowing cats, dogs, birds and a wide variety of other animals live on campus and in their pet-centered dorm, which is fully-equipped with a doggy daycare. According to the college’s website, they “treat pets like royalty.”

The college also teams up with a no-kill dog and cat shelter so that students can join the pet program and become foster parents of these adoptable furry friends to prepare them for their “forever home.” This program even comes with some great scholarship opportunities! Academically, students have the choice among three different degree programs within equestrian studies at the school’s Equestrian Center.

6. Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J.

Points Awarded: 8
Student Population: 2,400
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17 to 1

As a way to help students relax and feel more comfortable on campus, Centenary College partners with Seeing Eye, Inc.’s Morris County 4-H Puppy Tails Club to bring six puppies on campus to greet students as they enter the dining hall every Tuesday toward the end of the academic year.

Centenary is also possibly one of the most well-known equestrian colleges in the country, offering a BS in equine studies and concentrations in riding instruction and training, equine business management, communication for the equine industry and equine science. The school’s Equestrian Center features three barns, three riding arenas and a hunt field.

5. Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Fla.

Points Awarded: 10
Student Population: 2,173
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12 to 1

Eckerd College was the first college in the country to allow pets in the dorms, and not just fish. From the start, they’ve allowed cats, dogs under 40 pounds, rabbits, ducks, large birds, ferrets and more, as long as the pets are registered with the school. Today, the school offers students eight different housing options that will allow them to live with their pets. This college also offers a pre-veterinary medicine degree program and an equestrian club.

Annually, Eckerd celebrates a pet commencement ceremony for their senior students who have pets with them on campus. This college campus is also host to a brand new dog park, as well as a student-run Pet Council, which oversees all of the school’s pet-related activities.

Editor’s Note: Eckerd’s standing on this list was moved higher after new information was brought to our attention. Because of the list being published prior to these additions, both Eckerd and Abilene Christian University share the No. 5 spot.

5. Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas

Points Awarded: 9
Student Population: 4,461
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

At Abilene Christian University undergraduate animal lovers have the options to major in animal health professions, wildlife and natural resource management, animal industry and business, biotechnology and research, livestock management and animal science: pre-vet/health. Students have the opportunity to gain hands-on learning experiences through the ACU Rhoden Farm on campus.

4. Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio

Points Awarded: 10
Student Population: 1,086
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

Although Lake Erie College’s pet policy is strict and only allows service animals within residential housing, the school is especially fond of horses. Academically, LEC has an entire school dedicated to equine studies, as well as a few different biology options. In fact, this college loves horses so much that eight out of the 10 points awarded are equine-related. They even have an Equine Pilates student organization!

Other great student organizations for animal lovers at LEC include the Pre-Vet Club, the Equine Leadership Council and the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).

3. Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio

Points Awarded: 11
Student Population: 1,830
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11 to 1

At Ohio Wesleyan University students are permitted to own fish or one small pet, such as a gerbil, hamster, guinea pig, mice or rat as long as they register said pet and follow the school’s guidelines. In the Small Living Units (SLU) on campus, students are allowed a total of two cats or dogs.

Starting in March 2014, OWU’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity began an annual “Dog Days” philanthropy event, which brought two no-kill animal shelters to campus with their adoptable pets. All event attendees were asked to donate $2 toward the shelters, and animal adoption applications were available to any attendee who was interested.

2. Becker College in Worcester and Leicester, Mass.

Points Awarded: 15
Student Population: 1,902
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17 to 1
At Becker College, animal-loving students have the chance to focus their future career on animal care, biology, equine management, equine studies, laboratory animal management, pre-veterinary, veterinary science/clinical medicine and laboratory animal management, or veterinary technology. According to the School of Animal Studies’ website, “Becker College is #1 in New England and #15 nationally and is among the top-15 producers nationally among four-year private institutions in awarding undergraduate animal studies degrees in 2011-2012.”

Recently, Becker College partnered with Pet Rock to host the 17th annual Pet Rock Festival on the Leicester campus. The event is meant to put the spotlight on the animal welfare organizations of New England that work hard to promote kindness to animals. This event is only one of many examples of other animal-loving events and organizations hosted by this college.

1. Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pa.

Points Awarded: 24
Student Population: 2,023
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13 to 1

During the 2014-2015 academic year, Delaware Valley University launched a pilot pet-friendly policy, which allows students to have small pets on one of the floors within the campus’ Samuel Hall. Through this program, the school hopes to properly research and create a new pet-friendly policy for the school, and the policy is currently being reviewed to possibly expand the list of approved pets and eligible housing units.

Academically, students can get a BS in animal science, biology, conservation and wildlife management, equine management, equine science, small animal science or zoo science. As one may be able to tell from this school’s extremely high score, DelVal also offers a whopping 15 clubs that are perfect for animal lovers.

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