5 min read

This College Has A Special Graduation Ceremony For Students’ Pets

It’s considered the most pet-friendly college in the U.S.

An important question, when holding a college graduation ceremony for pets: How do you get a tiny cap to stay on a hedgehog's head?

Lisa Presnail

Last week, almost 30 cats, dogs, lizards — and, yes, even a hedgehog named Mr. Higgins — graduated from Eckerd College, in St. Petersburg, Florida. These are pets belonging to seniors (the graduation ceremony for humans would be later in the month).

dog graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

Things got underway after a cookie and Milk Bone reception. Associate chaplain Libby Shannon delivered an invocation on the topic of giving thanks to God for animals, then college president Donald Eastman spoke about the growing, revolutionary field of animal consciousness.

After that, students and their animals walked across a dais to receive a certificate, and shake hands/paws with Eastman.

cat graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

Eckerd is said to be the most pet-friendly college in the country. The school takes that designation with pride.

dog graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

Students have been allowed to bring their animal companions since the early 1970s. Today, about a third of the traditional dorms, plus a handful of other student housing complexes, are animal friendly.

lizard graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

"This is a campus that is focused upon living in responsible empathy with all beings, including animals," James Annarelli, vice president for student life and dean of students, tells The Dodo.

"Our focus on sustainability, our dedication to the study and responsible stewardship of the natural environment, and our commitment to the creation and maintenance of a caring community all support the unique place that companion animals occupy in the Eckerd community."

guinea pig graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

Pet graduation is one more way of charmingly embracing this ethos.

cat graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

This year's ceremony was the fifth annual pet graduation. The school said in a press statement that more than 190 animals have graduated from Eckerd since 2013.

cat graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail


Galit Sarvet and her dog Opie were part of the 2017 affair.

Sarvet tells The Dodo that Eckerd's pet friendliness was one of the things that attracted her to the school, and that the pet graduation ceremony was a perfect way to see out her and Opie's college career.

"Eckerd College really cares about their students and takes pride in our quirky traditions," she says. "We are all dorks who love animals and we want to celebrate their wonderful companionship throughout one of the weirdest times in our lives."

dog graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

For the pet graduation, each student had the option of dressing their pet in the traditional garb, provided by Eckerd. Luckily, many said yes.

dog graduates from Eckerd College
Lisa Presnail

And just in case you want to know: You secure a tiny cap to a hedgehog’s head using a bit of string.