Pet School: Lees-McRae Allows Pets In Class, Dorms

Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk offers a unique option to students who need companionship of the four-legged variety. The school is pet-friendly.

“It’s a campus-wide philosophy, if you will, about the relationship between people and animals and certainly their pets,” said Dr. Barry Buxton, president, Lees-McRae College. “It’s an appreciation for the joy and the value that they bring into our world and our lives. It’s an appreciation for how they help us grow.”

The school has designated two pet-friendly residence halls. Professors allow animals to join students in the classroom. It seems the only place pets are not allowed is in the dining facilities.

“The pet-friendly policy is what brought me to Lees-McRae,” said Jessie Reece, a senior who transferred to Lees-McRae College with her dog, Roxy. “I know that might sound foolish to some people, but she was 8 weeks old when I got her and she was 12 years old at the time. I’ve never been away from Roxy, I’ve been separated from her twice in my life...So this is a school that I can come to. I can bring my dog with me.”

The policy gave Junior Sarah Monday a good reason to buy new pet guinea pig she named Toby.

“I came running with Toby," she said. "I really liked the thought of having my little friend here with me, because it’s a stress reliever. When you’re studying in your room, you know, you’ve got a few tests that week or big exams coming up, you can take break. I love to take him outside and walk him around, play with him, or just pet him.”

While the school is open to all pets, each student goes through an interview process to see how the pet would fit in on campus. Students with pet allergies or even fears should not worry, as they can opt to live in a non-pet residence.

Administrators say the pet-friendly policy, which started in 2011, is popular with incoming and prospective students.

“It really breaks down barriers with our prospective families,” said Ginger Hansen, vice president, Lees-McRae College. “And, brings our prospective students out of their shells and allows them to engage with us more while they’re here on campus.”

The school also encourages prospective students to bring their animals to Pet-friendly Admissions Open Houses. The next event is scheduled for July 26. For more information, visit