Finally its happening. As reported in the New York Times, Sunday, June 6, 2010, Colleges and Universities are allowing students to bring their pets with them to school. Given the increasing number of cases of severe anxiety, depression and suicide among students, there is recognition that young people need support in leaving home and adjusting to school. This is not happening at every University and it is important that the reader check with the school they are planning to attend if they want to bring a pet. In addition, the schools have definite rules and regulations about the care of pets during class time. It is important to learn about that, as well, if you are thinking of bringing your pet to school in the Fall semester.
Those Universities allowing pets are going beyond dogs. Some of them are allowing cats, smaller and non venomous snakes, etc.
Not everyone agrees with this new policy. There are some psychologists and psychiatrists who worry that this policy can mask a serious mental problem for some youngsters. In addition, there is concern that allowing pets actually delays and complicates the necessity of learning to separate from home and parents. This concern on the part of some mental health experts includes the worry that having a pet can make it too easy for anxious students to avoid going out of the dormitory and socializing.
In my opinion, these mental health experts have good reason for their concern. Anything that makes it easier for an anxious and socially avoidant youngster to avoid interacting with other young people on campus, is not helpful to that student.
It is for this reason that I advocate dogs on campus. The nature of having a dog is that they need to be walked. As I have pointed out thousands of times to many people, there is no way to own and walk a dog and avoid social interaction. People will always stop to admire, pet and ask about your dog. Its a great way to meet people and make friends. I know this from experience:
One of my daughters decided to take her dog with her to school. She lived off campus and was allowed to have a pet with her in her apartment building. Daisy was a great friend and companion. She loved people, enjoyed meeting other students and their dogs and became a kind of mascot for the school. We love to say, to this day, that Daisy got her "barkalauriate Degree" at the school. There was no doubt that Daisy helped my daughter overcome her separation anxiety.
I am not opposed to other types of pets being brought to school, if the colleges allow it. I just believe that dogs provide a certain type of advantage for some students. I also admit that any pet, even those that stay in the room, can become a magnet for socialization. In other words, allowing college students to bring their pets to school is a "win-win" situation for everyone.
What is your opinion? Your comments and questions are encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.