Animals on Campus

  • On October 24, 2019 the College issued proposed animal guidelines for feedback from the campus community.  The guidelines were presented in draft form on a website.

    Feedback was collected via a Google Form through November 20, 2019.

    The feedback from the campus community can be summarized into several areas:

    • Animals in the Classroom – The draft guidelines proposed eliminating animals from the classroom.  The feedback on the proposed changes received mixed feedback with plenty of support for and against this provision.

    Explanation – Upon review of the feedback, the risk committee feels that the potential negative health and emotional impacts of allowing animals in the classroom outweigh the potential educational benefits.  The feedback identified concerns with respect to animal dander and allergies that could impact an individual’s experience in a space, both during the class or as part of a subsequent class in the same space, as well as the emotional impact to individuals who may have a phobia of certain animals.  Therefore, it is the recommendation that the proposed guidelines be implemented as drafted.

    • Leash Requirement – The implementation of a leash requirement on College property received mixed feedback as well. The leash requirement would differ from current town requirements which require animals to be on leash or for the owner to have voice control of the animal.

    Explanation – The risk management and compliance committee reviewed the feedback and has recommended that the proposed guidelines maintain a leash requirement on College property.  The feedback identified concerns associated with animals off-leash on College property, the ability for animals to be voice controlled is not proven based on past experiences, as well as the impact on those with animal phobias.

    • Impact of Leash Requirement on Cole Field Usage – The impact of the new guidelines on the use of Cole Field received the most feedback.  There is general disagreement amongst those who use Cole Field.  Many feel that animals should be free to roam while there are others who feel that roaming animals impact their use of the area with their own pets who remain leashed, even under current guidelines.

    Explanation – The risk committee reviewed the feedback and recognizes the enormous benefit many enjoy by walking their pets at Cole Field.  It is important to note that Cole Field is first and foremost an athletic field complex where students and community members compete in athletic endeavors.  While many pet owners are responsible, there have been many instances where off leash pets attack other pets, where pet feces are left scattered on playing surfaces, and where damage occurs to infrastructure.  In order to maintain a safe and healthy playing environment for our students and community members, the risk committee feels that maintaining the leash requirement in this space is important.

    • Better Define Animals Impacted – Initially there was some concern that the proposed guidelines impacted research or teaching animals that might be brought into the classroom, or animals that are kept in fish tanks in specific departments.

    Explanation – The guidelines have been updated to more clearly define what is governed by the proposed guidelines.

    The committee recognizes that not all in the community will be satisfied with the guidelines but we share the following feedback that was received from a member of our community as part of the feedback process:

    The privilege of bringing my dog to campus is extremely important to me, which is why I strongly support the proposed animal guidelines, especially the leash requirement. Having my dog around adds immeasurably to my quality of life at work, and I know that many others enjoy his company. But no one should ever be forced to interact with a dog, and that’s exactly what allowing your dog to roam off-leash does. It compels other people to accept risks to which they did not consent. Whether your dog is friendly or responds to voice commands is irrelevant. Other people don’t know your dog, and they should not be asked to trust your judgment. Even friendly dogs can be dangerous under the wrong circumstances, and it is perfectly reasonable to assume that any dog could do you (or another dog) harm. Moreover, experience would suggest that very, very few dogs are under complete voice control (there is only one such dog in Williamstown, Loki, and his exception proves the rule). I myself have been challenged by dogs on campus, and my own dog has been attacked (twice) by unleashed dogs on Cole Field. Both times the dogs totally ignored the voice commands of the person walking them. I’m quite sure that those dogs were beloved members of someone’s family. It doesn’t matter. Your feelings about your own dog don’t matter. Your experiences with your own dog don’t matter. What matters are the feelings and experiences of everyone else who shares this small, densely populated, socially diverse space with your dog. We have many places in Williamstown and the surrounding area where we can run our dogs off-leash, where dog-related norms and expectations are, and should be, more relaxed. Context is everything. In the context of a modern college campus, it is simply unfair to force other people to interact with your dog, or even to worry about interacting with your dog. These are common-sense regulations, and I support them because I want to work on a campus where dogs and people can co-exist harmoniously.

    The above feedback response summarizes nicely the impetus for crafting more substantial and clear guidelines and articulates nicely the overarching reasons for enacting these new guidelines.  The risk management and compliance committee recognizes that these updated guidelines represent a dramatic shift in current practices and remains committed to reviewing these guidelines periodically to ensure they remain relevant for the College community.  The committee is grateful to all those who provided feedback as part of the process.

Williams College recognizes that pets can foster a friendly and positive work environment.  In addition we want to make sure that animals won’t disrupt the work of the college, damage properties or cause medical issues for students, faculty, staff or guests.

Service Animals are an accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act and are not subject to these guidelines.  Emotional Support Animals are an accommodation that is made based on a diagnosed medical need and are subject to these guidelines.  Any exceptions to these guidelines should be sought with the appropriate office (Human Resources or Office of Accessible Education).

  • These guidelines apply to animals that are brought into the workplace by faculty or staff and are commonly household pets.  These guidelines do not apply to animals that are used for academic teaching purposes, research purposes or aquariums maintained by academic departments.

    At this time, dogs are the only permissible animals that faculty and staff are allowed to bring into offices and common areas.  Exceptions can be made by the Risk Management and Compliance Committee.

    Registration requires the approval of the appropriate Department Head (Chair, Supervisor, etc.)  and confirmation there are no conflicts with respect to a colleague’s health concerns or existing animals that have been approved in a location.

  • Animals that will be inside College facilities or offices must be registered with Campus Safety and Security.  This will assist CSS, facilities, first responders and others with identifying the location of animals in the event of an emergency as well as to be sensitive and aware if they are working in areas where animals are commonly found.

    To register an animal, individuals must complete a form and demonstrate at the time of registration that the animal meets the established guidelines for vaccinations and municipal registration.  See Vaccinations section below.

  • Visitors may bring animals to campus and are expected to follow the guidelines with respect to behavior and cleanliness.  Visitors’ animals, other than service animals, are prohibited from entering any campus building.

  • While on campus, owners must ensure their animals refrain from aggressive, disruptive, and dangerous behaviors.  At all times, owners remain personally liable for the behaviors of their animals.

    While on Williams College property, inside of buildings and outside on athletic complex grounds, animals must be on leash.  See Restricted Areas & Leash Requirements for more information.  Animals may be off leash when in private offices or rooms.  When off leash in private offices or rooms, a gate should be used to keep the animal in the space should the door be left open.  Animals should not be permitted to wander. Gates are to be supplied by the owner.

    If an animal is left unattended in a private office, the door should be closed and a sign left on the closed door indicating that an animal is inside the space.  The following sign is recommended:  Animal Sign


  • Animals are NOT permitted in classrooms, laboratories, health facilities (health center, training rooms, etc.) or in designated areas on campus such as food establishments and indoor athletic complexes.  The Restricted Areas document provides a listing of prohibited spaces where animals should not be present.  Please consult with Campus Safety and Security on designated areas where animals are prohibited.

    It is important to note, that animals shall not be tied to handrails or left unattended outside of buildings where animals are restricted.


  • If required by local or state law for the species of animal, the animal must wear a rabies vaccination tag or municipal license tag.

    All animals must be vaccinated against diseases common to that type of animal in accordance with state and local laws, rules, and regulations. All vaccinations must be current.


  • It is the responsibility of the owner to pick up all animal waste, including but not limited to fecal matter, urine, and vomit, and clean and disinfect any affected surfaces as may be necessary.  Please consult facilities custodial supervisors on the appropriate disinfectants to use.  Disinfectant supplies are to be maintained and supplied by the animal owner.

    Waste must be placed in a plastic bag or other suitable container that is sealed or tied closed.

    After proper packaging, the waste can be placed into an outdoor trash receptacle/dumpster.

    Animal waste must not be disposed of inside the building, or in close proximity to a high traffic entrance/exit door.

    It is the owner’s responsibility to reasonably remove any animal fibers that have been shed in offices or common spaces.

  • Food for the animal must be properly stored in clean, impenetrable sealed containers (such as plastic containers with locking lids), not to exceed 5 gallons. Bags, cardboard or fiberboard containers are not permitted for bug, rodent and other housekeeping related reasons. Costs associated with remediation of any infestation of insects, rodents or mold as a result of improper food storage may be charged to the faculty or staff member.

  • Any sign should indicate the name of the animal, contact information for the owner, and a clear warning about the presence of an animal.  The signage should be placed on the door of the space where an animal may be located.  This will inform visitors, faculty, and staff of the potential for an animal in the space and ensure the safety of all.

    The following sign is recommended:  Animal Sign

  • Per Massachusetts Law, a person shall not confine an animal in a motor vehicle in a manner that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat or cold.

  • Only service animals are permitted in these locations.

  • Should a Faculty or Staff member feel uncomfortable with an animal located in a space or uncomfortable expressing concerns with respect to an approved animal, individuals may express their concerns to Human Resources, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, or the Dean of the Faculty Office, as appropriate.

  • It is expected that interactions between faculty, staff, and student animals on campus should be limited. It is important to note a distinction between emotional support animals and service animals.  Service animals are protected under certain laws and therefore are afforded certain privileges not afforded emotional support animals or faculty and staff animals.  Every effort will be made to accommodate service animals in the case of a conflict between animals including removal of other animals impacting the service animal.  Conflicts such as these should be handled by the appropriate office such as Human Resources, the Institutional Diversity and Equity Office, the Dean of the Faculty Office, or the Office of Accessible Education.

  • Owners of animals who violate the guidelines or present behavior issues will be referred to the appropriate Senior Staff member.  The owner may be offered an opportunity to cure the behavior, but the College reserves the right to post poorly behaved animals from campus based on a single instance of disruptive, aggressive, or dangerous behavior.