Playful pups to preserve students' sanity

Furry friends aid students' stress relief

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2014
puppies and students
KEVIN STENT/ Fairfax NZ
PUPPY LOVE: Victoria University student association president Sonya Clark gets lots of love and attention from SPCA puppy, Marlo, who will be visiting students during study leave next month.

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Stressed university students cramming for exams are being offered puppies to pat in a local echo of an international trend featuring petting zoos, pop-up pubs and bubble wrap.

Victoria University of Wellington and the capital's Massey University campus are teaming up with the SPCA to bring puppies in for a day during study leave next month.

The popularity of petting zoos has already been proven in Britain, where universities have offered students the chance to play with goats, chickens, geese, a cow and even a Shetland pony. Feeding ducks had also been tested as a form of relaxation at Leicester University in England.

Leicester also boasted "bubble wrap stations" that the local student leader said brought students "instant gratification". The relaxation phenomenon spread to Down Under, inspiring pop-up pubs at the University of Canberra in Australia as part of a "stress-busting" week.

Victoria University students' association president Sonya Clark said only good things could come from students playing with puppies - especially during the busy and stressful exam period.

"Lightening things up with some farm animals and a bit of silliness" was good for students' mental health, she said.

An initiative from the university's law student society to bring in puppies last year prompted the students' association to give it a go.

Free breakfast and lunch would also be offered and the university gym often ran free classes to help encourage students to unwind while studying.

SPCA animal care and adoptions manager Nicholas Taylor said animals were a calming influence on people and the puppies and kittens taken to universities and work places loved the attention.

"It's great for the animals and we're careful about taking the ones that will cope . . . We're not going to take a highly strung cat or chicken along because that's not good for anyone."

Puppies and kittens were the most popular but rats, guinea pigs and rabbits had also visited workplaces, Taylor said.

"It's invaluable for students and people in general, especially when people are so tied to the busy urban life."

Pooches would also visit Massey's Wellington campus for the first time next month.

"We were looking at having a massage centre and a whole bunch of things to create a week of de-stress events," Massey Wellington students' association president Todd Williamson said.

While the massage centre had fallen through, the puppies were still on the agenda - along with hot drinks.

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Williamson said taking students' minds off study even for a few minutes was really important and the idea of petting zoos and bubble wrap - while somewhat "hilarious" - were great ideas.

Petting zoos have not won universal support. Stirling University in the UK vetoed one after protests from an animal rights group.

- The Dominion Post

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