Editorial Contest: Pets Should be Allowed on College Campuses

Samantha Fitzgerald, Student

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Within recent years, an increasing number of requests have been made by distressed college students to allow pets on campus. Under the American with Disabilities Act, service animals must be allowed on all college campuses. Service animals require specific training to perform tasks for their owner. Emotional support animals (ESA’s) can be any type of animal and do not require training ,but the student must have medical documentation of a condition like depression or anxiety in order for the animal to be included under the Fair Housing Act. But what if a student who isn’t medically in need of a service or ESA wants a pet to bring them comfort while being away from home? Due to the fact that only forty colleges across the nation (around 4%) allow pets, that student would most likely be out of luck. I believe college policies should change to accommodate the individual requests of their students ,and allow all types of pets on campus.

It’s strongly supported that pets promote happiness and bring comfort to their owners. Carol O’Saben, a psychologist says, “I have four dogs who are my pets, and if I feel anxious, I can pet my dog and feel better. That’s the basic biology of it. Pets help people feel more comforted, calm and assured”.​

College students are expected to balance their classes, make new friends, and work, all while being away from home. One student stated, “When you’re alone and you’re in those dark places, it’s hard to convince yourself that the reasons why you should get out of bed are worth the effort … the day I got Morrison I felt alive again”.

Some universities bring in therapy dogs to be played with during finals week. If colleges are bringing in dogs for the sole purpose of relieving student’s stress, then they must be aware of the high stress levels they’re experiencing ,and should be open to allowing their own pets on campus to help them cope. Kara Bilello, who attends a pet-friendly university, writes, “At the end of my 12-hour days, coming home to my cat, Zip, is not only calming, but vital to my well-being and high-level functioning.”

Although there is promident evidence from psychologists and students themselves that shows the promotion of our wellbeing when we’re accompanied by pets, there are problems to be considered with pets on campuses. One question that arises is how to handle students with allergies or phobias. Some colleges limit pets to students who live in a single room without any roommates. Another thing to be considered is pets require stability, constant attention, are expensive, and could cause damage. Universities that are pet friendly have policies in place that make the student responsible for any damage their pet may cause.

Being a college student comes with an overwhelming amount of stress, anxiety and

homesickness. Having a pet with them everyday could relieve stress, ultimately allowing them to be happier and more focused. I believe the only way to change no-pet policies is if enough college students continue to make direct requests that allow all pets on campus, not just service or ESA’s.