Recently, the issue of school pets has come up for the people in this school because of our beloved feline visitor Rusty, better known as Tubby the Cat. Our school has decided, after much consideration, to keep Tubby out of the school due to health concerns. Though I love Tubby being around and the effect he has on students who are not allergic to him, I support the administration’s decision to keep Tubby out. Some of the reasons I do support it are the allergens that are introduced to the school and the laws regarding commercial kitchens and pets.
One in seven people from the ages 6 – 19 are allergic to cats. As our school has students right in this range, we need to be sure that we protect them from this inhibiting allergy. Students who are allergic to cats often cannot work efficiently when around cats as their eyes often start to itch and water up, a condition that is distracting for many students. One student states that her allergies can range from a simple rash to swollen throat and eyes, depending on the amount of contact she has with the allergens. She says that she had these symptoms for a continuous week and a half during the time Tubby was in the building.
When Mary was asked about the reasoning behind the decision to keep Rusty out, she explained that allergic reactions do not just occur when you touch a cat. When a cat sleeps on a jacket, or is held by a person, lots of hair is dropped. When a person wearing a jacket or shirt hugs someone who is allergic to cats, the allergens are often times passed along to that person, giving them an allergic reaction. Mary told a story of her sister being sent to the hospital after wearing a neck brace that a cat had laid on. She has witnessed Rusty laying on a bunch of student’s jackets, and though she loves to have him in the school, realized that he had to stay out.
Unfortunately, it is also against Idaho code to have most kinds of pets in commercial kitchens, including our beloved Tubby. Section 6-501.115 states “except as specified in ¶¶ (B) and (C) of this section, live animals may not be allowed on the PREMISES of a FOOD ESTABLISHMENT.” (link to the food code) Paragraphs B and C allow for fish in fish tanks and animals that are in service, such as a patrol dog or a service dog. Paragraph C covers fishing bait, and even that has to be stored in a way that would not come into contact with kitchen utensils. Because our kitchen is in a modern style without doors separating the cooking space from the area Rusty roams is a potential problem. Tubby has full access to the food preparation area and can easily contaminate the space.
One argument that could rise is the issue of the animal shelter students. They bring in more cat hair attached to their clothes than Tubby drops on any given day. And I agree, he doesn’t drop as much hair as the animals leave on the animal shelter students. But the only way to react to those hairs left on the shelter students would be to come into direct contact with their clothes. Tubby on the other hand goes where he want when he wants, often laying on peoples jackets and rubbing up against them on the low-hanging hangers. This leaves his hair all over the school, not just on the shelter student’s clothes. Plus, according to livescience.com, “it’s not cat fur that causes those itchy, watery eyes. Most people with cat allergies react to a protein found on cat skin called Fel d 1.” So by walking around dropping dead skin cells everywhere, Rusty is spreading this protein and causing people with allergies to react more than usual.