When administration tries new, innovative, cool ideas to fend off the horrible danger of stress, a lot of things can go wrong. For example, we could end up with bouncy castles instead of beds. Or we could find ourselves in a situation where we are stroking puppies for no apparent reason.
The upcoming puppy lounges in Halifax and Alcuin is not only a bad idea, but it reminded me what I don’t like about pets; their owners.
As a person who used to suffer from panic attacks, I can tell you I know a few things about stress. I know that stress isn’t an external problem, it doesn’t depend on your environment. It is a personal response to stimuli; not everyone deals with exams the same way, which is why many people have taken to the parks and not the library. Paraphrasing the modelling guru Tyra Banks; stress comes from the inside. Understanding that probably has led you to understand my point. A puppy zoo doesn’t belong in your arsenal when you’re fighting against anxiety.
If you were to try it, you would soon realise that hanging out with a few puppies you’ve never met before isn’t much help. Sure, it’s cute, but it isn’t going to help you more than a stroll in the sun. Because the people who do get stress relief from animals get it from their own pets. They get relief from being around their most loyal lifelong partner, the one that they have an emotional connection with. Were you to build that kind of relationship with one of the University’s puppies, you would probably be more stressful afterwards. You would try to see it as much as possible and you’d be worried about keeping it.
But the debate around the colleges’ plans doesn’t end there.
One of the biggest animal rights NGO spoke out against it. The mention of the word “zoo” rang the alarm and had them running to press microphones. In their eyes, the zoo is a cruel, selfish act that would “stress the animals”.
Putting aside that this particular NGO spends less than 5% of its funds on actually helping animals, or that in 2009 they killed 97% of the animals they impounded because they were “unadoptable”, they miss the point.
Maybe they missed the press release on this, but something happened some thousands of years ago; animal domestication. This is neither a brutal nor horrific imposition of man’s motives to animals.
It is the best way to include animals in our lives. Since we can’t have wild cheetahs in our living rooms, and we wouldn’t understand them much either, over the course of many, many years we have managed to make some animals a little bit more like us. And this way we have been in a position to truly love them and not simply admire them from afar.
Of course, the system isn’t perfect. There are children who get incredible joy from playing with their pets and there are children who get bored after a while. But this isn’t a problem due to animal domestication, it is a problem due to bad people.
We may have confined them in the concrete walls of civil life, but we have given ourselves the chance to create emotional bonds transcending species, and that’s a beautiful thing. Besides, after all this time, many of these species have evolved to be comfortable in this way of life.
At the end of the day, it comes down to prioritising. Animals face serious problems around the world. They are tortured and murdered for meat, leather, or sport. A few University students aren’t as big a threat to puppies as hunters are to tigers. Maybe, if such NGOs focused more on the serious issues instead of telling people that it is unethical to live with and care for an animal that you love, they would help more.
Bottom Line: Zoos won’t help us with stress, but NGOs should focus on the real problems animals face.