I’d like to start by saying that my fish, Jake Gil-ynhaal, and I are very happy together. But when my beloved beta looks at me with those disproportionately big, soulful eyes, and asks me why he is my only pet, I’m at a loss for words. How do I tell him that we live on a campus that judges animals based on what size tank they can fit in? All this, after I’ve raised him to respect all of his fellow creatures, great and small, furry and scaly.

For those unfamiliar with Cornell’s pet policy, in residence halls only fish in ten gallon tanks or less are permitted. It’s a policy reviled by my fellow Animal Science majors and by lots of students for a number of reasons. Here’s why Cornell should revise its pet policy:

1Emotional Support

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Emotional support animals are becoming more and more popular nowadays, and studies have documented the calming effect that animals have on their owners. We, as stressed out Cornellians, can use the soothing, uplifting influence of a pet more than anyone. That’s not to say that I’m going to roll up on campus with a St. Bernard to soothe me to sleep every night, but I have difficulty seeing the issue administrators can find with a reasonably sized, well behaved pet.

2Educational Opportunities

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Cornell is one of the few schools in the country that places an emphasis on the study of animals. What better way, then, to learn about animals than to live among them? It’s  incongruous that Cornell’s campus is home to a plethora of livestock and other animals, but I can’t live with any of them. There is Eco House, where students can in fact live with their pets, but this has its problems. Eco House has limited space, and what if students can’t earn a space, or can only spend one year there? The opportunity to live with and learn from our pets needs to be made available to all students.

3Collaboration

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One of the arguments against pets in residence halls has been allergies of residents, which is a really valid point. However, if neither you nor your roommate has allergies, co-owning a pet is a great opportunity for you and your roommate to bond and collaborate over raising a living thing. If both residents are on board and wanting to share the responsibilities of their animal companion’s care, it can be a great experience for one and all.

4Service

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Cornell’s campus is surrounded by animal shelters, and the Tompkins County SPCA has lots of animals that need homes. We college students are missing our family pets, and can offer loving homes or foster situations to these animals. This will also be a welcome change for all those looking to work with Guiding Eyes for the Blind here on campus. It’s a win-win!

I sincerely believe that our campus needs to be more pet-friendly, and that there are a myriad of benefits that come with pet ownership. To be honest, the main one is probably the fun that pets bring into our lives. As Cornellians, we often get swept up in a tide of work, but our animals remind us to enjoy the little things and prompt us to play, to get outside, and to think of others.

Until the Cornell Admin chooses to  rethink its policy, I’m left trying to teach Jake how to play frisbee.

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