Like many of you, these last few weeks have been midterms for me as well. As the bombardment of exams and papers are finally wrapping up, I found that taking a break and going to the café not only improved my state of mind, but allowed me to relax and reflect on everything that I have experienced in Korea. This café was no ordinary café though, it was a dog café! Visiting Bau House, the dog café, was a lot of fun. In fact, I found myself leaving after three hours and feeling better than I had before.
Korea not only has a dog café, but it has cat, sheep, puppy and even raccoon cafés! Visiting Bau House made me realize how important therapy animals are. According to a 2005 research study from the American Heart Association and UCLA, a 12-minute visit with a dog can decrease anxiety, lower general stress and diminish harmful hormones among hospitalized heart failure patients. It has also been shown to reduce blood pressure in healthy and hypertensive patients. The research has found that short-term exposure to dogs has beneficial physiological and psychosocial effects (UCLA Health).
Now, I am not a heart-failure patient, but even I found that the presence of dogs helped my state of mind, especially during midterms. Although I enjoyed visiting Bau House and the puppy café, I thought a lot about where the line is when it comes to animal ethics. Take the sheep café for example.
The sheep café was located not too far from Bau House. Similar to Bau House, my friend and I purchased our drinks before petting the animals. The main difference between Bau House and the sheep café was that the sheep did not really want to be touched and stayed in their little corners. Although these animals (sheep and dogs) are not trained therapy animals, the presence of animals truly lifted my spirit.
But it left me wondering, is there an ethical line to the kind of therapy animals we should have as well as the kinds of animals we have in cafés? I have yet to visit the raccoon café, but it also makes me wonder if this café took a step too far?