Colleges use ‘therapy llamas’ to console students during finals

In order to help combat high levels of stress and anxiety in their students during finals week, many colleges and universities across the United States are turning to “therapy llamas.”

Students at the University of South Florida (USF) were treated to the furry pets on November 28 during “Paws & Relax,” an event sponsored by the school’s Center for Student Well-Being, a “collaborative effort of six health and wellness related departments on campus,” as per the organization’s Facebook page.

According to the Center’s website, Paws & Relax occurs every semester, when “dogs and other animals to come to campus during exam time to help students cope with the added stress.”

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“As feelings of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are at their peak during this time, petting animals for even just a few minutes can help boost your mood and reduce these negative feelings,” the Center claims.

USF students sounded off about the event via Twitter.

“Im pissed i wasnt on campus to see the llama,” one student tweeted, while another proclaimed, “I saw a llama today on campus and magically i feel like i’ll pass my finals thanks usf.”

Others were more skeptical of the event, however.

“They had llamas on campus today and this boy said ‘Can you take a picture of me throwing gang signs with the llama?’. Wtf,” a student wrote. “kinda wishing I saw a llama on campus yesterday. also kinda creeped out there were llamas on campus yesterday,” another student tweeted.

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Radford University’s “Library Stress Buster” on December 6 featured therapy llamas, as well.

“Llamas are here! Bunnies too! #stressbuster #llamatellya Visit our animal friends 2-4 today!” the school’s McConnell Library tweeted.

Another tweet revealed that students would also have the opportunity to undergo “free chair massages,” and participate in crafts and button-making.

“DUDE NO ONE TOLD ME THERE WAS THERAPY LLAMAS ON CAMPUS I TOTALLY WOULDVE WORN MY LLAMA PAJAMAS TO TAKE PHOTOS WITH THEM wow ok bye,” one Radford student tweeted, disappointed that they had missed the event.

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The University of California, Berkeley also announced that therapy llamas were on campus on December 4.

“Llamas helping to ease #finals drama! #Llama #llamas,” the school’s Twitter account announced, accompanied by a video of students petting llamas. “Pet a llama at @UCBerkeley's Memorial Glade, here until 4 pm.@ASUC_Union,” the UC-Berkeley News account tweeted.

However, some in the Berkeley community were skeptical of the furry creatures’ benefits during finals week, and an article in The Daily Californian—titled, “Do animals help reduce stress? The llamas may not save your GPA”—raised questions about the merits of therapy animals on campus.

The article contends that animal “de-stress” events like “hugging therapy dogs” and “petting llamas” may not actually reduce stress, citing Yale doctoral candidate Molly Crossman’s 2015 article, “Effects of Interactions With Animals On Human Psychological Distress,” which found varying effects of stress reduction from human-animal interaction.

Some UC-Berkeley students were disparaging about the event as well, with Daniel Shepard telling The Daily Californian that such animal destressing events are “silly” and don’t affect his stress levels whatsoever.

“The bottom line is that I think there’s too much attention on animals,” Shepard stated. “People are paying attention to the animals to the point that they’re ignoring humans.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @rMitchellGunter