There are at least 20 colleges in the United States that are considered pet-friendly, meaning that they allow students living on campus to own pets. Unfortunately, NYU is not one of them. NYU’s current policy states that students living on campus cannot own pets other than goldfish, though the policy is different for faculty members. However, with the health benefits — both mental and physical — that come with owning a pet, NYU should adopt a more pet-friendly policy so that stress-ridden students can reap the benefits that many faculty members already enjoy.
Owning a pet can have various mental health benefits, which can be favorable to a university like NYU that is plagued with an intense culture of pre-professionalism. According to a study conducted by Keith Humphreys, a professor at Stanford University, when a person holds and strokes a pet, his or her parasympathetic nervous system is activated. With almost a quarter of NYU students reporting that their anxiety has affected their academic performance in the last 12 months, making NYU a pet-friendly campus would be helpful in bringing this percentage down.
Pet owners are also less likely to suffer from depression. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention states that owning a pet can lead to decreased feelings of loneliness, and Animal Planet also notes that pet ownership offers a sense of purpose. At a school like NYU, where 59 percent of students report depression symptoms, these steps go a long way. With such ambitious students, NYU’s implementation of a pet-friendly policy would indicate a commitment to addressing these issues.
Owning a pet also has physical health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of a heart attack, according to Animal Planet. In addition, research from the National Institute of Health shows a negative correlation between being a pet owner and being obese. Having incentive to exercise is especially important in a school such as NYU, in which less than half of its students meet national physical activity guidelines. By implementing a pet-friendly housing policy, students can reap the physical health benefits that come with owning a pet.
The mental and physical health benefits that pet owners attain cannot be matched. To better the community by decreasing mental illness and promoting physical activity, NYU should change its housing policy to allow pets in residence halls. To address any issues students may have, from allergies to phobias, the NYU housing application can include a portion in which students choose whether or not they are okay with living on pet-friendly floors. Halls can introduce permission forms and caretaking agreements to prevent disputes over pet care. Though the university may consider this process to be a hassle, it is a small price to pay for the wide range of mental and physical health benefits to students.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, December 5th print edition. Email Veronica Liow at [email protected]