Leah Kraus proposed the establishment of on-campus housing in which a variety of pets, including dogs and cats, could be kept by students (Nov. 1).

While humans have domesticated various species to live with as companion animals, there are both benefits and risks associated with this arrangement. We need to think carefully about whether, on balance, such a plan would create a better or worse campus environment.

While some people may feel better while living with a dog, cat or other pet, other people will experience a negative impact on their health. About 15 percent of people in this country are allergic to dogs and/or cats; their allergic reactions range from mild (sneezing, upper respiratory congestion, rash) to life-threatening (anaphylactic reactions, severe asthma, narrowing of the upper airway). Nearly five million people are bitten by dogs in this country every year, and up to 10 percent of these bites require treatment in an emergency department. Over two dozen infections can be transmitted from domestic pets to humans, several of which can be fatal to persons with immune system problems. These infections can be transmitted in a variety of ways, including contact with fur, contact with saliva and contact with feces/urine in addition to bites.

We should also keep in mind that, although some people feel better around pets, others have a phobia about dogs or other animals. Treatment is available for this condition, but, like other therapies, it requires time and money, and the outcome is uncertain.

The two schools cited by Ms. Kraus are much smaller than the University of Rochester. I believe it is entirely appropriate that all but a small handful of colleges and universities across the country do not allow students to keep pets in residence halls or limit such pets to small animals that are kept in cages.

We have a duty to look at all sides of the issue before we change a policy that has served us well for decades.

-Ralph Manchester, M.D.Director of University Health Service

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