Pet-Friendly Campus

Emma Mae Sheedy, Reporter

St. Thomas Aquinas College is not a pet-friendly campus, but on any sunny Sunday, you’ll see dogs roaming around to help relieve stress before the week of classes begins. Students living on and off campus bring their pets for the day to spread the happiness that the pets tend to bring. 

Hundreds of studies have shown the benefits of playing with dogs and other animals to relieve stress, so why is St. Thomas Aquinas College a pet-free campus when it would benefit from having pets on campus?

More than three dozen colleges allow dogs and cats on their campuses, even if they are not a service animal or emotional support animal,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a nationally-recognized expert on student financial aid, scholarships and student loans. “Other colleges limit students to fish, amphibians, lizards and small caged animals.”

Over 60 percent of the households across the world have pets. The transition for students who grow up with pets as they move into pet-free college dorms is incredibly difficult. One student, Aida Torpey a senior at STAC understands this struggle. At home, Torpey has a golden doodle dog. Her family occasionally visits STAC events, such as her cross country races and of course, her dog is always around.

“Having pets is the greatest stress reliever there is,” Torpey said. “Having a dog has helped me de-stress and to calm me throughout my life. But once college started, my dog wasn’t around a lot. It was rough to not have her by my side 24/7. Whenever you’re having a bad day or are tired from tests you can always go to your pet to brighten you up.”

Students are not just leaving their comfortable environments when coming to STAC, but are also being taken away from much of their mental support. 

According to the American College Health Association, college students report high rates of stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression in a 2017 report. The study also showed that pets can reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure by 300 percent. The pets in this study differed from dogs, cats, rodents to amphibians, and fish. Each and every one of them provide health support for students, emotionally and physically. 

Sara Chowning from Delaware Valley University, only a few hours away from STAC, lives on a pet-friendly campus and promotes other colleges to do the same. The guidelines that have been put into place are strict at the university, but allow little to no change in ordinary dorm rooms, which is ideal for STAC. 

“Having my pet rabbit on campus is absolutely amazing. She is super friendly and loves the dorm life,” said Chowning. “I don’t have a roommate so having her makes me feel less alone and allows me to enjoy the feeling of having someone else in the room with me.” 

Having pets in an environment is one of the best ways for people to reduce stress, decrease risk of allergies, increase overall happiness and promote exercise. 

Chowning said, “It’s also nice if I’ve had a bad day and need to vent about things. She may not understand what I’m saying but she always listens to me and seems to know when I’ve had bad days, [she] always manages to cheer me up!”

Pets also are ideal for teaching life skills, such as responsibility, social skills, sticking to a routine and scheduling. The responsibility that is required to take care of something other than oneself is taught through the action of taking care of a pet. 

Chowning describes some responsibilities of having a pet rabbit on campus, even if she is litter box trained. “Being a rabbit she can get very messy. She sheds everywhere and constantly! She also enjoyed throwing her food bowl when she’s done eating… even with food left in the bowl. It also can be a problem when the fire alarm goes off as well. I need to get her out of the building but the alarm is so loud it scared her and makes her refuse to leave her cage.”

Some of these responsibilities can be also a disadvantage, but with other animal lovers on campus, students can learn from each other. The social skills that it takes to create bonds with other animal lovers is another life skill that on-campus pets can teach. 

With pets on campus, there will be a new community that will be bonded through these animals. New clubs as well as volunteer and job opportunities will be created on campus for all students. Having pets on campus will overall improve the happiness of STAC’s campus. 

“I do believe animal owners like myself thrive when they are able to bring their pets onto campus. It allows for our own little community of pet owners on campus. It gives us all something we can be passionate about,” said Chowning.