A new campaign to introduce animal therapy at Falmouth University will help to reduce and relieve stress levels in students.

The initiative put forward by FXU Welfare will look at having certain days for specific animals. Harry Bishop, current FXU Welfare President said: “The plan is ideally having a set time once a week of animal therapy of some sort.”

He added: “We need to get to a point where we have a donkey day, a cat’s day and a dog’s day so that we have these spaces available for students to distress.”

Do we need donkey days?

It has been scientifically proven that these interactions either through playing or petting the animals can decrease the production of the stress level hormone Cortisol.

Falmouth University’s love of pets is evident to see, with the adored ‘campus cats’ and donkeys often rooming around the grounds.

However, in certain situations, this has been taken to extremes with students often rehoming pets and keeping them in their University halls.

The University accommodation office has a strict zero-tolerance policy to pets living on campus. Heidi, the University’s Halls Officer said: “A lot of people try to bring dogs here, which isn’t necessarily allowed unless it is an access dog. Students also try and horde the ‘campus cats’ in their rooms, they don’t realise that the cats actually have a home and only come up here because they get fed.”

Heidi, recalled when she was a student at the University and someone had bought ducks into her halls. She said: “It was really weird, I don’t know how it ended but someone put it on Fitfinder and the accommodation office found out.”

Pets at Home’s Falmouth’s branch has said that they have a ‘strict’ policy on students wanting to rehome pets to ensure they find a ‘forever home’. The pet store in Falmouth said that they have had to refuse students on various occasions, due to many of them living in properties that do not permit pets.

One store associate said: “A student came in the other day to buy a rabbit for herself. We were close to the sale until she said she wanted to keep it at her mum’s house which was over a hundred miles away. We had to cancel the sale immediately to protect the animal’s welfare, he definitely wouldn’t have survived the journey.”

But Harry Bishop argues that having pets on campus may reduce students wanting to adopt a pet. He said: “I completely understand why students have pets but having a pet is a two-way relationship. If we can encourage more animal therapy then we can mitigate that issue because you can have all the love and attention of an animal without having to clean it out or take it for a walk.”

Is petting a cat a stress reliever?

The proposal of animal therapy is controversial, with many people shamming it for not being a proper welfare service and covering up the bigger issue of not having enough counselling services.

However, Allie Guy, newly elected Welfare President 2019/2020 disagrees, she said: “Next year I want to make animal therapy an option for students at University. However, the issue lies around policies of having an animal inside the institution. I think the first step is about collaborating with organisations around Falmouth such as the Flicka Foundation and Cats Protection so students can sign up and volunteer through FXU.”