Art by Madeline Duvall
Life without pets is rough. Students who have grown up surrounded by loving, furry friends come to college and might not see an animal for weeks or even months.
The Pepperdine Student Handbook allows students to have service and support animals in the dorms, and does not allow other animals in any buildings or dorms. Students should be allowed to have non-service animals in some on-campus housing because the presence of loving animal friends can improve students’ lives. Pets can help cope with the stressful educational environment and caring for a living thing helps teach responsibility.
Pets are associated with lower blood pressure and lower heart rate in anticipation of a stressor. “The presence of a dog in an educational setting seems to support concentration, attention, motivation, and relaxation reflecting reduction of high stress levels which inhibit effective learning and performance,” according to the article “Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin,” published by Frontiers in Psychology in 2012.
In a stressful college environment, a dog could dramatically enhance a student’s learning experience. Not only would that student achieve better grades, they would also learn more from classes. A student would have a less difficult time preparing a test or a stressful presentation, and experience less anxiety in anticipation. Pepperdine already invites therapy dogs to campus during finals week to have these effects, but living with pets throughout the semester could help students avoid or lessen the rush of stress at the end.
Pets also teach responsibility, which could help more students prepare for life outside of the university. Caring for an animal is not easy, but the American Veterinary Medical Association offers a clear checklist for responsible pet ownership. While a list might seem like an added burden on students’ already packed schedules, time invested in an animal would help students be less stressed overall and more productive.
An animal requires a different type of accountability than an assignment. While a failed assignment might affect one’s grade in a class temporarily, pet ownership is subject to state and federal laws. California law states that failure to adequately care for an animal is a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year’s jail time, according to the California Penal Code. In this way, accountability for a pet goes beyond the university.
There are several steps the university can take to allow more students to have pets in on-campus housing, allowing students to experience the benefits of pets on their mental health and personal accountability, without compromising the students’ or animals’ safety. University campuses with pet-friendly policies, such as the University of Northern Colorado, have put restrictions on the number and size of pets allowed. For example, all pets must be neutered, students accept financial responsibility for any damage their pets cause to the building and other people and specific dorms are designated as pet-friendly while others are not, according to the UNC website.
Students at UNC who apply for the pet-friendly residence halls must also fill out a separate pet ownership housing contract, complete a separate roommate contract that addresses issues that might arise from the animal’s presence and attend a “Pet Friendly Orientation session.” Through these policies, the university allows pets while ensuring the student’s commitment and responsibility.
Pepperdine can adopt similar measures to protect both the students and the animals, ensuring a safe and valuable experience for more pet owners on campus. Even if one floor of an apartment building was dedicated to pet-friendly residences, the students living there would experience an improved on-campus experience. Allowing non-service animals to live with students in certain residence halls can make the university a more conducive environment for learning and save students from the agonizing months away from fluffy friends.
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