On October 22 and 23, the UvA will join the British universities of Bristol, Northampton and Nottingham with its own puppy room in the Doelenzaal. Cuddling a dog for as little as 15 minutes can help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress, according to the University Library.
The idea arose when students last year were asked to describe their ideal library, says library employee Marloes van Wagtendonk. ‘A few had heard about universities abroad using ‘puppy rooms’ and suggested we try it. So we contacted the animal casting bureau Catvertise.’
With room for only 160, all spots were reserved within an hour. Van Wagtendonk says that, for now, this is a one-off event. ‘In the past we’ve also provided yoga classes. We like to come up with something fun every now and then.’ She emphasises that the library has also created over 750 extra study places spread across nearby buildings.
‘The puppies are fine. Worry about the bio industry’
Some criticise the initiative because they believe it will be stressful for the animals. But according to Sabine van der Helm of Catvertise, the project has been organised responsibly. She assures naysayers that the puppies will only play with one student at the time so as to reduce stress, and that its owner will be in the same room. Van der Helm: ‘We’ve been working to get this right for months. The library has done its research. The puppies will be fine. They’ll be showered with love. People shold worry about the animals in the bio industry.’
Maarten Reesink, media scientist at the UvA, finds the news ‘intriguing’. ‘A puppy room is a new phenomenon for me’, he says. ‘If the project is well-supervised and seems to work for both parties like cat cafes, and scientists from different fields believe it to be a good initiative, then perhaps it could be a more long term thing.’ He also has faith in Catvertise. ‘The company is focused on the well-being of the animals.’
At Science Park, UvA employees have come up with a similar initative, inviting artificial intelligence students to cuddle with a robotic dog (‘Shakey)’ during the exam week. The ‘robot dog room’ will be in the Intelligence Robotics Lab at Science Park 904. The event is fully booked.